Photo Gallery: Norwich City ready to be let loose on Premier League
Norwich City 3, Parma 0: Paul Lambert has had his fill of pre-season friendlies and on this evidence you can see why…Norwich City are ready.
Pre-season campaigns are all about one thing – gearing up for that first game of the season and if the way City brushed aside Parma is any kind of evidence of where Norwich are at the moment then fans can be optimistic of making a good start at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
While Lambert doesn’t think much can be read out of a pre-season campaign other than gauging fitness levels, it does give fans a chance to glimpse into the mind of the Scot as to what his starting XI will be for that all important opener.
So where are we in that regard?
Well, John Ruddy was always going to be City’s number one with Lambert deciding to focus his recruitment drive elsewhere than bring in any increased competition for the former Everton man. Declan Rudd will deputise.
The right full-back slot appears to be a straight fight between Kyle Naughton and Russell Martin although the latter was cruelly robbed of a final chance to impress against Parma after injuring his calf in the warm-up.
Naughton stepped in very capably with the Tottenham loanee showing against the Italians why many have earmarked him for future England honours. Quick, comfortable on the ball and already showing signs of developing a good understanding with Elliott Bennett down the right flank, the 22-year-old has quality written all over him.
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With Ritchie De Laet figuring prominently in City’s pre-season friendlies it appears to be a straight fight between Leon Barnett and Zak Whitbread to partner the Belgian with Elliott Ward currently sidelined.
Whitbread got the nod against Parma and while he wasn’t tested too much against a side that didn’t offer much going forward, his reading of the game once again caught the eye.
Marc Tierney got forward well against the Serie A side but the real difficulty in predicting a starting XI is in the midfield.
City started with the diamond on Saturday with David Fox at the base and his ability to change the direction of Norwich’s attack with one pass makes it almost impossible for him to be left out.
Elliott Bennett started from the right but his willingness to come inside and affect the play explains why Lambert was so keen to land him last January. He also packs quite a shot as he demonstrated just after the half-hour mark when his 25-yard drive had goalkeeper Antonio Mirante scrambling but relieved to see the ball swerve just wide.
Earlier Bennett’s long ball out of defence had sent Simeon Jackson clear after the Canadian’s pressure forced Gabriel Paletta into a mistake. However, Jackson appeared to have almost too much time and Mirante saved well with his feet. Jackson had another chance before the break after Grant Holt had wrestled two defenders off the ball before sending him through but once again he was foiled by Mirante.
Jackson will have to redisover that ruthless streak in front of goal he displayed in last season’s run-in as chances may not be that plentiful in the top flight.
It didn’t matter on Saturday however, as Holt showed the summer has done nothing to dull his goalscoring instincts in the 34th minute. Naughton’s cross from the right took a big deflection but the striker was the only one to read its direction and he calmly side-footed home to give City the lead at the break.
Holt was his normal bustling self causing all manner of problems to a defence unused to the kind of physical game the City skipper brings to the table.
It will be fascinating to see how he fares against Premier League defenders but the 30-year-old has risen admirably to any challenge he’s been set wearing a Canaries shirt.
He provided the assist for City’s second on Saturday after being freed by Wes Hoolahan down the left hand side. After advancing into the penalty area he showed good awareness to pick out Andrew Surman, who swept the ball home with his left peg from 12 yards.
By that time the triple substitution of Bradley Johnson, Leon Barnett and Anthony Pilkington had taken place, prompting City to adopt a 4-5-1 formation. Bennett, Whitbread and Jackson made way and it perhaps showed how the Canaries will line up against some of the superpowers of the top flight.
Johnson joined Fox in sitting just in front of the back four while Pilkington, from the right, and Surman, from the left, were charged with providing width for their side.
Wes Hoolahan, who showed several nice touches, played just off Holt and although City struggled at first with the change in formation allowing Parma a couple of sights of goal, they soon came to terms with their new roles. Lambert will have been heartened to see the nature of his side’s third goal with his two wide players combining to seal victory. Pilkington made good progress down the right to get to the byline before pulling the ball back for Surman, who had come in from the left flank, to stylishly flick the ball home from close range.
It marked the end of the scoring and the end of pre-season and City certainly look like they have the tools to make an impression in the Premier League. Only time will tell how big an impression.
• Norwich City (4-4-2): Ruddy, R Martin, De Laet, Whitbread (Barnett, 51), Tierney (Drury, 71), Bennett (B Johnson, 51), Fox, Surman, Hoolahan (C Martin, 71), Jackson (Pilkington, 51), Holt (Morison, 71). Subs not used: Rudd, K Smith, Lappin, Wilbraham, Naughton.
• Parma (4-4-2): Mirante, Felstcher, Morrone (Nwankwo, 79), Zaccardo, Lucarelli, Giovinco, Borini (Modesto, 61), Paletta, Ze’Eduardo (Coppola, 85), Valiani, Pelle (Biabiany, 75). Subs not used: Pavarini, Galloppa, Crespo, Brandao, Blasi, Sansone, Abderrazak, Santcroce.
• Referee: Michael Oliver
• Attendance: 13,067