Chris Goreham: Wingers can get Norwich City fans on their feet again
PUBLISHED: 17:12 20 March 2018 | UPDATED: 18:20 20 March 2018
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Is there anything more exciting on a football pitch than a winger in full flight?
Natural goalscorers like Iwan Roberts, cultured passing midfielders in the Ian Crook mould and Grant Hanley style tough tackling defenders all have their place but when it comes to shifting supporters on to the edge of their seats it’s hard to find anything as thrilling as raw, natural pace and width.
This was in evidence at Carrow Road on Saturday.
It hasn’t been a ground rich in entertainment this season but having Josh Murphy and Onel Hernandez working in tandem on opposite flanks did create a warm fuzzy feeling on a freezing cold day.
Murphy mentioned in our post-match interview that combining with the Canaries’ recent signing reminded him of playing in the same team as his twin Jacob, now at Newcastle United, although the brothers never quite managed to coincide their spells as Championship regulars at Carrow Road.
The remaining Murphy clocked up his 100th appearance for Norwich against Reading.
He is now an established part of the first team furniture.
It is another reminder of the relentless passage of time.
Having seen him come through the City academy and play a huge part in winning the 2013 FA Youth Cup, it’s hard to shake off the impression of Josh as a promising youngster.
I haven’t felt this old since ‘Young Michael Owen’, as he was always called by commentators around the time of his blistering breakthrough during the 1998 World Cup in France, retired from football.
There is, of course, more than one way to set-up a successful football team which is why it seems so long since Norwich City played with two proper wingers.
The Paul Lambert era was built on the foundations of a diamond midfield and making Wes Hoolahan the focal point of the attack meant that employing wide men wasn’t Lambert’s preferred option.
James Maddison has emerged as the heir to Hoolahan’s creative Canary throne and that’s meant Josh Murphy has found himself having to be a square peg in a round hole at times this season.
He looks much more comfortable playing wide than through the middle as a striker but has been a willing runner in the latter role this season when Daniel Farke has demanded it.
The dilemma facing the German head coach at the moment is that Norwich look more likely to solve their obvious goalscoring problems when they play with the 4-2-3-1 system employed against Reading but they’ve looked much more solid defensively when the three amigos of Hanley, Zimmermann and Klose have been played together in central defence.
That formation means the wide roles have to be fulfilled by more disciplined players with Jamal Lewis, Ivo Pinto and Harrison Reed excelling there since Christmas as Norwich became a much tougher side to beat.
The only way of having the three centre backs and two wingers would be to play a 3-4-3 with the wingers either side of a centre forward.
That means playing without what is known in the modern game as ‘a number 10’ and so Maddison would have to be played in somewhere other than his best position and if anyone deserves to have a team built around him it his City’s stand out performer this season.
At least the option to play with proper wingers now exists for Norwich. Josh Murphy and Onel Hernandez may still have work to do on improving the consistency of their end product but the early signs are promising and we may have found players who can bring fans to their feet almost as often as Dale Gordon, Ruel Fox or Darren Huckerby did.
When Daniel Farke was appointed as Norwich City head coach last May I promised myself that I would never make creative mileage out of having a German manager.
It would be far too cheap to make fun of the way he pronounces English words given that he is running a Championship football team and dealing with all of the nuances associated with doing what would be a difficult job for anyone in his second language.
If I was put in charge of a German football team all I would be able to do is tell the players that I had a brother, count to ten in front of them and ask directions to the nearest youth hostel. That was the limit of my language learning at school so anyone who can speak, let alone do a job, in a foreign country is nothing short of impressive.
The great benefit of dealing with a foreign coach a couple of times a week, as my job demands, is that you have someone who has not been brought up around ‘take each game as it comes’ clichés.
Daniel Farke has delivered some brilliant quotes this season, sometimes bordering on the poetic. The early signs were good when, just before our first interview by the side of the Carrow Road pitch on the day he was appointed, Farke remarked on the noises coming from the birds flying over the ground. “The doves are crying” became the name of my Fantasy Football team for this season.
Two recent favourites have been “I am not here to win the Nobel Peace Prize” when dealing with questions about Nelson Oliveira’s recent break from first team action and, after the Reading game, the German talked about how committed his side had been despite their mid-table position by telling us that “more than 50 percent of my players were there with blood on their studs.” It was said in a tone that wasn’t as threatening as that quote looks written down.
Whatever you have made of Farke’s approach to a challenging first season in the Canaries dugout, he has certainly been good to deal with from our side of the microphone.
Seek out his recent rant about the reluctance of British players to train in the snow if you want an example of how refreshingly different he is to listen to.