Norwich City's frustrating 2-2 Championship draw at QPR was a game defined by individual battles and responsibilities, as well as a skilfully crafted set-piece routine.

Ben is a City season ticket holder and author of the NCFC Analysis social media account, who unpicks games with an analytical report highlighting tactical strengths and weaknesses.

This is what Ben made of a Loftus Road stalemate.

QPR versus Norwich: Individual roles and a set piece routine

Score: 2 – 2

Possession (%): 45 – 55

Passes: 379 – 467

Shots: 14 – 12

xG: 1.01 – 1.28

  • Aiming for Armstrong and fast transitions.
  • Blocking passing lanes to Norwich’s wingers.
  • Norwich’s set-piece routine.
  • Exploiting a passive mid-block.

Base formations

Following a statement win against fellow play-off hopefuls Coventry City, Wagner’s side made the trip to West London to face Marti Cifuentes’ QPR. Both teams set up in flexible 4-2-3-1 base formations before transitioning into their in-possession and out-of-possession structures.

The Pink Un:

In their deepest build-up phases, Cifuentes’ side created problems for the visitors with a persistent but effective strategy.

While QPR dropped in their 4-2-3-1, Norwich transitioned into their usual 4-1-3-2 pressing structure, as Barnes (10) joined Sargent (9) in a front two and Sara (17) advanced between the wingers.

The Pink Un:

The hosts frequently played out to their right, finding Cannon (20) via Cook (5), as the dynamics of Norwich’s ball-side man-to-man press began.

Barnes (10) jumped onto Cook (5), and Sainz (7) pressed Cannon (20), while Sara (17) and Fassnacht (16) tracked the QPR pivots. Behind the first two lines of pressure, McLean (23) followed Hodge (16) as he dropped towards the ball, while Stacey (3) and Giannoulis (30) marked the wingers.

The Pink Un:

With Armstrong (30) remaining in the last line, Cannon (20) targeted the QPR striker in a 1v1 against Gibson (6), aiming lofted passes into the Norwich half. In doing so, the hosts attempted to profit from Armstrong’s (30) obvious physical capabilities in individual duels.

Gibson (6) had varying degrees of success challenging for first contacts, but the second ball was the crucial element of the host’s strategy. With the loose ball dropping back over the halfway line, Willock (7), Hodge (16), Chair (10), and Colback (4) were ready to attack at pace.

The Pink Un:

Indeed, Cifuentes’ side benefited from exactly this situation halfway through the first half. After Gibson (6) received a caution for a foul on Armstrong (30), Hanley (5) began challenging for first contacts.

With Armstrong (30) knocking the ball into the path of Chair (10), who this time wasn’t followed by Stacey (3), the Moroccan winger was free to advance on the right before passing to Willock (7). Gunn (28) parried the resultant cross to Colback (4), who found the back of the net to make it 1-0.

The Pink Un:

Between their deepest build-up phases and moments of settled possession, the hosts were occasionally able to play through Norwich’s press with ease when Chair (10) dropped between Sara (17) and Fassnacht (16), thus overloading the second line of pressure.

The Pink Un:

Once QPR advanced into settled possession and Norwich dropped into their typical 4-4-2 mid-block, the host’s structure became even more fluid.

Left-back Kenneth Paal (22) frequently advanced into the left half-space, allowing Chair (10) to remain out wide, while Cannon (20) became a hybrid right centre-back. With Colback (4) and Hayden (14) maintaining the host’s double pivot, these rotations created a temporary 3-2-4-1 shape.

The Pink Un:

The fluidity of their positions, however, meant players were free to advance into emergent spaces to combine with the ball carrier. On the left, Colback (4) occasionally dropped into a conventional full-back position, while Chair (10) or Paal (22) dropped towards the ball.

The Pink Un:

From Norwich’s goal-kick restarts, Wagner’s men dropped into a variation of a 4-2-2-2 build-up structure. As the full-backs advanced on both sides, Sargent (9) dropped alongside Sainz (7) ahead of City’s double pivot.

In response, the hosts created an asymmetric pressing structure as Chair (10) joined Armstrong (30) in the first line. Hodge (16) and Willock (7) sat behind, while Colback (4) and Hayden (14) marked Sargent (9) and Sainz (7), respectively.

Paal (22) was ready to press Stacey (3) on the left, while Cannon (20) typically stayed back on the right, leaving Willock (7) to track Giannoulis (30). Interestingly, the host’s pressing structure resembled their 4-2-3-1 base formation with a left-sided tilt.

The Pink Un:

For much of the first half, Norwich failed to find a reliable means of exploiting and escaping QPR’s highest press, with the hosts ensuring each City player on the ball-side was occupied.

For example, when Norwich played out to their left, Armstrong (30) pressed Gibson (6), Hodge (16) tracked Sara (17), Willock (7) jumped onto Giannoulis (30), and Hayden (14) typically occupied Sainz (7). The majority of such build-up attempts resulted in a turnover deep in City’s half.

The Pink Un:

But Wagner’s men did manage to create chances when playing over QPR’s initial lines of pressure to exploit the space behind both full-backs.

Early in the second half, with Paal (22) jumping to press Stacey (3), the visitors were able to advance into space on the right when Fassnacht (16) headed the ball into the channel. With Sargent (9) outpacing Colback (4), Norwich created a 3v2 in the last line before Cook (5) made a last-ditch tackle.

The Pink Un:

When Norwich advanced into settled phases of possession, they created their usual shape with McLean (23) dropping into a situational back three, while the wingers inverted and the full-backs overlapped.

Cifuentes’ side responded by dropping into a 4-3-2-1 shape, leaving Sara (17) free to receive on either side of Armstrong (30). The host’s wingers dropped to block passing lanes to Sainz (7) and Fassnacht (16), while Hayden (14) sat in front of Barnes (10).

The Pink Un:

But when Norwich dropped back into their own half, QPR’s mid-block became more active as they pressed man-to-man on the ball-side.

With Wagner’s men playing out to the left, for example, Hodge (16) jumped onto Gibson (6), while Colback (4) tracked Sara (17). Willock (7) followed Sainz (7) when he dropped towards the ball, and Cannon (20) ensured Giannoulis (30) remained occupied out wide.

The Pink Un:

Within five minutes of the first half, Norwich found an equaliser with a pre-planned set-piece routine following numerous unsuccessful corners in the first half.

At the near post, Gibson (6) managed to pin three QPR defenders, while Hanley (5) and Fassnacht (16) were marked in front of Begovic (1). Sargent (9), Barnes (10), and McLean (23) started at the far post, with the trio initially man-marked.

By pinning three defenders at the near post, space was created behind Gibson (6). McLean (23) peeled away from the far post – while his marker (10) was blocked by Barnes (10) – before hitting Sara’s (17) low corner into the net to make it 1-1.

The Pink Un:

As the game progressed, QPR’s mid-press became more passive and disconnected.

In the second half, during a period of settled possession, Norwich shifted from right to left to find Gibson (6). The host’s usual pattern would involve Hodge (16) pressing the centre-back while Colback (4) jumped onto Sara (17). Instead, however, Colback (4) dropped back alongside Hayden (14) leaving Sara (17) free to advance.

The Pink Un:

With Cifuentes’ mid-block designed to block passing lanes to the wingers instead of a man-marking approach, the defenders remained in the last line. But when Colback (4) dropped deep, neither he nor Chair (10) blocked the passing lane to second-half substitute Jonathan Rowe (27), leaving him free to receive between the lines.

Rowe (27) then found Stacey (3) overlapping on the edge of Norwich’s last-line overload, before the right-back crossed to Sargent (9) who made it 2-1 – a goal QPR cancelled out later in the second half.

The Pink Un:

Ultimately, City's trip to Loftus Road was a game defined by individual battles and responsibilities, as well as a skilfully crafted set-piece routine. But many of Norwich’s tactical weaknesses will continue to be challenged in future games.

Can Wagner’s men execute reliable build-up patterns; can they consistently force high turnovers with a proactive press; and will their star players remain available? The answer to these questions will likely define the rest of their season.

You can read all Ben's previous analysis of Norwich City games via his social media accounts.

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