Robin Sainty: Will Norwich City boss Daniel Farke be tempted to try out the Chelsea formation?
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When Norwich City last produced an impressive cup performance, at the Emirates back in October, it signalled the start of an extended slump in league form, so I’m sure that Daniel Farke will be hoping that the resilient showing against Chelsea will have the opposite effect.
As in the game against Arsenal, City seemed to relish the extra time on the ball afforded to their midfield players while their new-look back three coped admirably with Chelsea’s multi-million-pound strike force of Pedro, Willian and Michy Batshuayi.
Overall, there were plenty of positives; the continuing upturn in Josh Murphy’s form, another impressive outing from Jamal Lewis and the confident way in which Christoph Zimmermann, Timm Klose and Grant Hanley dealt with Chelsea’s occasional periods of pressure, among others.
While City created very little in the way of chances, neither did their visitors, despite opening the game with eight players who had each commanded higher individual transfer fees than the whole of City’s starting XI combined, and the solidity of the 3-4-3 formation will almost certainly encourage Farke to look at a similar set-up in the league before long.
It remains to be seen how well the system would work in the Championship, but the greater flexibility for players to interchange positions offered by not fielding a target man certainly showed promise, while the use of wingbacks provided greater natural width than we have seen so far this season.
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As ever though, the system itself isn’t the key, it’s the quality of execution by the players, but Saturday’s outing would certainly have given Farke confidence to try it again.
Overall it was a good weekend for the club, because Sunday saw Ben Godfrey voted Man of the Match in Shrewsbury’s tie against West Ham while Carlton Morris also had an impressive game.
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With Alex Tettey out of contract in the summer and suffering from long-standing knee problems, Godfrey appears to be a ready-made replacement. While he currently lacks the huge experience of Tettey, who put in another superb shift against Chelsea, he has shown great consistency at Shrewsbury and is highly mobile as well as being strong in the tackle.
Morris has made less of a mark, but against West Ham he showed how much he learnt from Grant Holt at Norwich by leading the line aggressively and holding the ball up for his team-mates.
Inevitably in a transfer window there is a tendency for fans to focus on the more established players, but it’s worth noting that with Lewis, Godfrey, Morris, Todd Cantwell, Tristan Abrahams, Adam Phillips, Glenn Middleton and the hopefully returning Louis Thompson, there is a growing pool of youthful talent available for the club to build upon in the future.
Add in slightly older players like Murphy, Zimmermann, Sean Raggett, Remi Matthews and Tom Trybull and the picture is far from bleak.
Of course, there are no guarantees that all those players will make it at first team level, but if they don’t it won’t leave the club financially exposed in the way they were by the failures of the likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Yannik Wildschut or Steven Naismith to make an impact.
And that inevitably leads us back to the transfer window, where the club is faced with sticking with a clearly unbalanced squad or trying to improve that balance. While there may be no financial pressure to sell, it has regularly been made clear that selling is the only way to release funds to buy new players, so ultimately something has to give.
While there will be players that the club would like to part with, that’s dependent upon someone wanting to buy, and if they aren’t, the only way forward is to sell one or more that they would prefer to keep. That won’t go down well with some fans, but it’s the stark reality of the situation.