Butterworth - No frills and spills for Norwich
David Cuffley Assistant manager Ian Butterworth insists there is no magic formula behind Norwich City's new-found defensive resolve - just a desire to keep things as simple as possible.
Assistant manager Ian Butterworth insists there is no magic formula behind Norwich City's new-found defensive resolve - just a desire to keep things as simple as possible.
Only three sides in the Championship have conceded more goals than the Canaries, but there has been a big improvement in the last five matches, which have yielded 10 points, with goalkeeper David Marshall beaten just three times.
Butterworth believes that keeping a settled back four and cutting out the frills has greatly enhanced City's survival chances as they prepare for the final six matches of the campaign.
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“There's no big secret. We've just had to make the players aware of their responsibilities in the team, their role,” said the former centre-back.
“When I first came here I looked at it and we had the second worst defensive record in the Championship, so you could see why we were down there, though there were other reasons as well.
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“All we've tried to do is tighten up a little bit, not just at the back but everywhere, being harder to beat as a team, as a unit.
“It takes a little bit of organisation, but also it's fairly simple - just people getting to know their roles.
“Some people don't like defending or doing the hard work but unfortunately we're near the bottom and we've got to put our bodies on the line - simple as that. Whether you're a forward coming back from clearing a corner or a set play or a defender, when it's your bread and butter, you have to do that.”
Butterworth, 45, brought in by manager Bryan Gunn as his number two at the start of February, said he quickly realised City's play was too elaborate in their own half and made them liable to lose possession.
He said: “I thought we were playing too many square balls, too many short passes in the wrong areas of the field, between the 18-yard line and the halfway line or the back of the circle.
“There were too many passes at times and, with no disrespect to the players, they're not Arsenal, they're not Liverpool. So we've tried to get it up to the front players a little bit quicker, changing the Norwich style, but needs must.
“Why get caught with it outside your own box playing that extra pass when we can lose it 70 yards further forward and the opposition have to come through us again.
“It's difficult for one or two players because they've been used to playing short balls and playing a lot of passes in midfield but we've said we can't afford to make mistakes there, so let's try to hit the strikers a little bit earlier and see if maybe we can put things over the top.
“So it's simple, effective things like that - and now we've got one or two strikers up there who don't mind running the channels and taking a few knocks.
“If people are going to try to play a high line, like Cardiff did when they came here and tried to press the play on to us, we can offer something in behind them where we have a little bit of movement and pace.”
A settled back four was essential to develop a good understanding, said Butterworth.
“There is a bit of continuity now,” he said. “The back four for the last three games has been the same so that does help.
“It's absurd the amount of people who have played at the back at this club. How on earth are you going to get success? Gary Doherty was telling me he's had seven or eight different partners.
“One or two people have been lost through injury but it's absolutely scandalous. We have to try to change that.”
Butterworth praised the efforts of the back four in the last three games.
“Doc leads by example and he has been Mr Consistency and the partnership with Jason Shackell has been outstanding,” he said.
“Getting Jason back has been a breath of fresh air. His commitment has been immense since he's come back. People tend to think about loan players as not really being committed, but you saw it against QPR and Cardiff and Plymouth.
“I think Jon Otsemobor has played really well the last three or four games and the one who's really come through is Ryan Bertrand, who was outstanding at Birmingham at the weekend.
“The two lads on the flanks worked hard stopping the crosses and the supply line. But it's not just down to Marshall and the back four. We've told the midfield players they need to keep shape and we need to be organised.
“I also felt we were too small and needed bigger players in certain positions. You may get away with not having a big target man but you are vulnerable at set pieces. You need five good headers of the ball in both boxes.”
Butterworth has been impressed with the dedication of the squad in seven weeks since he first took his place in the dug-out in the 3-3 draw at Wolves.
He said: “The attitude of the players has been very good. We've had to upset a few people on the way but it's part and parcel of football.
“We have given ourselves a real fighting chance now but we've got a hell of a lot of work to do. I don't know how many points it will take to stay up.
“We aren't out of the woods yet. It's all about hard work and asking players how badly they want to stay in the Championship. Recent performances say that they do.
“In some ways, I think this break has come at a bad time. The momentum is in our favour and we're putting some good performances together - and now we've got a break for two weeks.”