Norwich City will get in where it hurts
Norwich City boss Paul Lambert is demanding his players fight fire with fire as they prepare to meet the physical challenge that Stoke City present head on tomorrow at Carrow Road.
Whilst the Potters have many detractors for their direct style, Lambert is not one of them and is prepared to adopt a similar approach to try and get three points in front of the home fans.
City were the only promoted side to get anything out of their opening fixture but Lambert warned Tony Pulis’ side are a completely different proposition to Wigan.
“We are going to have to stand up to the battle of it,” said Lambert, whose side have had more than a week to prepare compared to Stoke who were in Europa League action against FC Thun on Thursday evening. “It will be a physical game and we’re going to have to adjust accordingly to it.
“This is a totally different game from Wigan. Stoke get accused of being over physical but they make no apologies for it - they are winning more games than not.
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“They can also play as well - they’re in Europe and got to the FA Cup final so that shows you the magnitude of the task we’ve got. But we’re at home and we’ve got to try and win. I saw them against Chelsea and I was very impressed. They were a handful - they’re not just a physical side, they play the game.”
Lambert has a great deal of admiration for the way Pulis has turned Stoke into an established Premier League side and whilst some football purists criticise their approach, the Scot would be happy to match their achievements after three seasons in the top-flight.
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“They have got a foothold in the league now haven’t they? They are established in it. They’ve done fantastically well and it’s something we’ve got to aspire to – to stay in the league.
“It’s fantastic for them getting to the FA Cup final and then obviously qualifying for Europe. That’s a really successful season. Being established in the Premiership as well is great and is something we’ve got to achieve.”
Playing in front of a packed Carrow Road should give City a boost and Lambert will be looking to impose his side’s own style on proceedings rather than worry about anything the Potters can throw at them. We’ve got to try and score, it’s not rocket science – we have to create things.
“It might not be pretty but we have to try and win. We’re at home and the onus is always on the home team to make the running and that’s what we will try and do.”
A week on from the plaudits the club received for their opening day draw at the DW Stadium, Lambert admitted he learned a great deal from the club’s first foray into English football’s elite under his tenure – possession being 9/10s of the law perhaps the biggest lesson.
“I learned we can’t give the ball away otherwise you will be punished. The game was really quick - that’s what you expect but the pace of it was definitely different.
“If you lose the ball then you are going to get punished.”
Lambert insisted he will need every member of his 25-man squad this season and that is likely to come into effect tomorrow with Zak Whitbread struggling with the knee injury that saw him substituted in the second-half at Wigan.
“I will have to wait and see how he is this morning,” added the Scot. “If there’s any doubt then I think it’s too big to take a risk on any of the players.
“I think everyone else seems not too bad - they seem to have recovered from last week. I think Zak’s the only one giving cause for concern.”
Leon Barnett is likely to get the nod if Whitbread doesn’t make it with Lambert hinting it may be too early to throw new signing Daniel Ayala into the heat of a Premier League battle after just 70 minutes for the reserves on Tuesday night.
“He has just come in and he probably is ready to play. The only concern I’ve got is that he probably doesn’t know everyone’s name at the minute. That’s the only concern that I’ve got.”
With eight new signings added to the squad since the club secured promotion to the Championship, Lambert admitted to giving himself a few nice selection headaches.
He argued that every member of his squad will have a role to play at some stage this season though given the different challenges sides in the top-flight present on a weekly basis.
“It’s not easy to leave people out but you just hope they understand that I’m just trying to pick a team that can win a game - that’s what I will try and do - I will try and pick a team that collectively will stick together.
“I’m going to need everybody. There won’t be one player that won’t play a part in it this season - everyone will play.”
Despite a wealth of options, Lambert refused to rule out another dip into the transfer market before deadline day.
“I don’t think you ever stop looking - whether you get them in is another matter. But I’m delighted with the group I’ve got at the minute.”