David Freezer: Canaries have to remain in attack mode against West Ham – and stats back their approach
PUBLISHED: 06:30 31 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:10 31 August 2019
Daniel Farke’s assistant Eddie Riemer may be forced out of retirement at the rate centre-backs are getting injured, so we can bank on Norwich City focusing on their attacking threat at West Ham again today.
The disappointment and worry were obvious as Timm Klose hobbled his way past the sympathetic away fans at Crawley on Tuesday, less than 30 minutes into his comeback appearance.
With Christoph Zimmermann also taken off 10 minutes into the second half after bangs to his hip and back during his first game of the season, the defensive concerns were already present.
So when skipper Grant Hanley dropped out with a groin issue, Farke must have been wondering if he'd used up all his good luck during last season's title success.
All of which means Ben Godfrey and Ibrahim Amadou need to be rolled up in bubble wrap for the short trip to East London, to ensure City have two fully fit central defensive options.
It's hardly the ideal circumstances for Amadou to make his Premier League debut but after looking a bit out of sync with his team-mates in midfield, he settled into his defensive role well during the second half, showing good control and determination similar to the Godfrey mould.
As brilliant as Zimmermann was last season, it seems too much of a risk to start him today. Knowing the German's character, he'll be straining every sinew to show he's ready for action but he is only 55 minutes into a recovery from knee surgery.
At times this season it's felt like City needed to clone Godfrey, with Hanley not quite getting up to Premier League speed during the opening three games.
However, I still think Hanley's taken some undeserved stick. Looking back at the goals against Chelsea and Godfrey's enthusiasm does leave rather a lot of space alongside Hanley for the second and third goals, while Tom Trybull got sucked to the ball unnecessarily for the first.
Yes, Hanley was similarly pulled out of position on the halfway line by Tammy Abraham in the build-up to the first and got himself in a muddle for the third, but given the Scot barely played last season, it's been a big ask of him to find form and fitness against Liverpool and Chelsea.
Those games are done and dusted now though and while West Ham aren't considered one of the big boys in the top flight, they do have £45million worth of striker to unleash in Sebastien Haller. Add the South American attacking flair of Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson and it's clear that the Hammers must not be taken lightly.
So whether it's Amadou or Zimmermann who gets the nod alongside Godfrey, Tim Krul's encouraging return to top-flight life could well be in for a thorough examination, as City try to settle their back-line as much as possible.
The Dutchman is set to make his 50th appearance for Norwich - and his 50th consecutive league start, not missing a minute of league action since signing last summer. He still has a way to go to threaten Barry Butler's club record of 219 uninterrupted league appearances between 1957 and 1962 though.
All of which puts the emphasis on City continuing with their attacking style, spearheaded by the irrepressible Teemu Pukki, who reached his latest goal-scoring landmark last weekend.
With a game to spare the Finn has now scored more goals than any other player in Canaries history in their first 50 games for the club, edging one ahead of Percy Varco's 34 from the late 1920s and two more than Grant Holt managed. Thanks to Peter Raven, one of our resident stattos, for the hard graft on that one.
Another stat which I think provides some added belief is a look at the best pass completion rates in the Premier League so far. City average a high quality 82.8 percent, despite those difficult games against Chelsea and Liverpool.
That leaves them tied with Chelsea in fifth, with only Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City (top with 88.7pc) ahead of them.
And midfielder Trybull can take a good deal of credit for that too, with a personal pass completion average of 93.7pc. Just Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi (93.8pc) and Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks (94.3pc) have a better average than him so far.
It's always wise to be wary of reading too much into stats, but I see that particular offering as a good indicator that Farke's team do have the quality to continue on the front foot at this level.