Norwich City’s Wes Hoolahan worth the ticket money
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Sometimes, one particular footballer is worth paying the ticket money just to see. Cliched, but right now, Wes Hoolahan is pretty close to earning that kind of superlative. He has been in mesmerising form this season and that continued in the bubble-bursting beating of media mistresses Bournemouth.
I’m not convinced that a player can significantly improve at Hoolahan’s age, he probably hasn’t, but he’s playing with a fluency, freedom and confidence that might make him that little bit better. There’s a fluidity to the midfield that allows him to drift into dangerous areas and get on the ball where he can hurt opposition teams and with Nathan Redmond also given licence to roam, those teams have more than enough to think about. Of course, that wouldn’t work without the discipline of Tettey and work rate of Howson, but it does work, they run their tanks to empty for each other.
Saturday gave us a first glimpse of Matt Jarvis and his tireless work coupled with his direct running at defenders may have given those of us devastated to see “The Bun” depart for Derby City, some inclination as to the method behind the supposed madness.
We were excellent in the midfield and that was without the unfortunate-to-be-dropped Dorrans and the injured Mulumbu. Martin Olsson also returned, this frees up the impressive Robbie Brady to move further forward but with Jarvis starting in such impressive fashion, those choices no longer look automatic. We’ve added pace and depth to the left hand side and in recouping £6m on BJ, it looks – albeit after just the one outing – to be a case of excellent business for City.
Conceding a poor goal from a corner when 3-0 up will certainly be enough to keep those concerned about our defensive frailties worrying. It was like a wave of sleep had engulfed our entire team as the corner dropped invitingly onto the unmarked head and subsequently flew past John Ruddy. No clean sheet, again. This isn’t the first time that a lack of concentration has cost us a goal this season, it probably won’t be the last, but it was disappointing in this instance because I thought that the defence, and Bassong in particular, had been excellent. Strong, dependable and confident to step out of the back four with the ball at his feet, he looked every part as good as I think he is.
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Russell Martin was again solid which will disappoint his detractors and Andre Wisdom did OK, though he did seem rather more comfortable going forward, perhaps that’s a trait with Norwich City right backs. With Liverpool being next up, Wisdom will have to miss out which means an instant recall for Whittaker. I’m happy enough with that but Wisdom did play his part in a comfortable victory and it would have been interesting to see what Alex Neil would have done had he the option to pick either.
In attack, it was great to see Cameron Jerome get off the mark for the season. If a player just had his strength and pace, they would cause problems for most defenders. Add the fact that he has excellent control, can bring other players into the game and has Duracell-bunny stamina to just keep going at the defenders and he must be both physically and mentally tiring to play against.
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People question whether he’ll score enough goals but it’s worth remembering that it doesn’t matter who actually scores them. Plenty of sides in the Premier League see lots of goals coming from width or attacking midfielders rather than out and out strikers. Jerome’s relentless harrying and pressurising will create chances and space for others to lap up their share of the glory. He’s exactly the type of centre-forward we needed the last time we were in the Premier League, he might have even kept us up.
For all that, Jerome now has additional competition in the form of Dieumerci Mbokani. He made a lively cameo and could have scored himself; it is difficult to make a bold assessment, but he looks like he’ll be a handful at the very least.
But back to Wes.
He was head and shoulders above – remarkable for Wes – any other player on the pitch. Some might say that it was only Bournemouth, that the Cherries still have a player that we decided wasn’t good enough years ago as their first choice midfielder. Well fair enough, if looking for ways to spin a negative is your thing.
I thought he was brilliant, a pleasure to watch. I’ve often said in the past that if we really wanted to kick on to the next level in the Premier League, we’d need an upgrade on Wes Hoolahan. Just as I pointed out with replacing our international defenders with someone better; saying it is one thing, finding and funding those better players is another matter entirely.
For now, I’m just delighted we’ve got Wes and with Alex Neil looking after him with these twenty minute breathers here and there, we might just have him for a while to come.
• Blog post written by Duncan Edwards