Connor Southwell: Norwich City will rely on Alex Tettey more than ever when football resumes
PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 June 2020
JASON DAWSON ©Jason Dawson
There are a lot of drawbacks to behind closed doors football – one is perhaps the encouragement for Alex Tettey to constantly unleash a shot from range.
The Norwegian midfielder has made no apologies throughout the years for hitting a shot from range - with varied success.
That comical, sometimes frustrating and occasionally magical moment is just one of the minor, irrelevant things denied us all by this virus.
Perhaps there’s a case to state that the lack of encouragement may prove helpful to City when they build up pressure and are looking to work an opening - but don’t underplay Tettey’s role in Daniel Farke’s squad.
It’s been stated a thousand times that Tettey doesn’t care much for aesthetics. Beyond his raking through pass that set Teemu Pukki racing clear at St Mary’s in December, it’s rare you’ll find a high number accompanying his name on the assists charts.
He isn’t as joyful to consume as Mario Vrancic or Emi Buendia, players who provoke that joy and wonder that makes you fall in love with the game.
But without him, City rarely look like they can function.
Maybe there’s a wider discussion to be had about recruitment and the inability to replace a 34-year-old, after all, on the surface he appears to be the antithesis of Stuart Webber’s approach to squad construction and player recruitment.
Unlike other long-serving members of years gone by, when the new revolution came steaming in Carrow Road, Tettey jumped on the train and proved himself to be a massive part of the new era.
He isn’t the slickest with the ball at his feet, nor the best when it comes of offensive productivity. Often, so much of his positive work cannot be tracked by statistics or numbers.
Those observations aren’t criticisms because you could state that those traits that Tettey possesses, the guile, the excellent tactical and positional understanding aren’t necessarily evident in the aforementioned players’ game either.
Perhaps City’s inability to source a younger version on Tettey hinges on the fact that youth development has altered. Since Barcelona’s era of tika-taka domination under Pep Guardiola, suddenly there seems to be an influx of technically proficient midfielders.
Tettey isn’t a progressive passer, but he is a tremendous shielder. Someone who occupies the space excellently to quash any potential for a defensive splitting pass.
His re-introduction this season has seen City depart from their possession-based game of last season in a more pragmatic approach, with Tettey’s presence now pivotal in a the double pivot consisting of the Norway international and Kenny McLean.
Those technical qualities previously discussed recognise Tettey’s ball playing deficiencies from a progressive prospective, but under Farke, his pass success percentage has improved drastically, with 88pc of his passes being successful this season.
That statistic places him third for ball retention in the City squad - behind only Ben Godfrey and Tom Trybull.
He has improved this area of his game under City’s head coach - his ball use is often risk free but purposeful. Simply, win the ball back and give it to a creator - that is Tettey’s sole purpose.
Delve into his defensive statistics and the quality of his positioning shines through once more - he sits joint second on interceptions with Sam Byram on 1.5 per game, trailing only Grant Hanley.
That stems from an intelligent base position. An understanding that doesn’t involve physicality but mental awareness. Tettey has been forced to adapt his game, and City’s patient passing style allows him to move up the pitch in a way that isn’t reliant on dominating the transition.
Trybull’s success in this position has been based on a different set of characteristics. The German wants to suppress space and hassle his opponent into a reckless piece of decision making - a different style that can often leave City exposed when the ball gets turned over.
Tettey has his deficiencies also; when bypassed, City are left with huge spaces. His lack of pace is clearly a problem.
His lack of progressive passing can prevent City exploiting turnovers quickly to counter. But Tettey does offer City a unique set of tools - often intangibles. Players that play with him will cherish him, but the Norwegian doesn’t like to be the centre of attention.
His renascence has seen him win two contracts under Farke when many expected him to depart.
When supporters sit down to consume behind closed doors football, perhaps Tettey’s role will become more evident. City rely on him to provide the defensive solidity they need to stay up.