There would have been a few Norwich City fans who would have been quietly surprised that Grant Holt joined City in the Premier League this year. He’s a legend in Norfolk no matter what happens next, but after his last two seasons with Norwich it’s odd that an ambitious Championship team, looking for a blood-and-guts big man, with an eye for goal, didn’t make an offer.
Holt didn’t start today. And Norwich won. But it would be foolhardy to see this as a sign. Whether he’s starting, substituting, or just shouting from the touchlines, Holt has remained vital to Norwich City through his sheer desire. He came on in the second half against Bolton and would have gladly stuck the ball up his shirt and run the risk of getting kicked to b*****y, if it meant securing the points. He battled for everything, frustrated Bolton at every turn and gave their ten men something else to worry about as they chased the game, no matter which penalty area he was in. He does lack athleticism, yes, but Grant Holt – who seems to embody the fans’ dreams more than any other player – is proving to be an effective footballer at this level. In this team. However, he surely won’t figure as much as in previous seasons.
Norwich City won away in the Premier League for the first time in 17 years at the Reebok. Holt taking a place on the bench for a change, opened things up for a Wes Hoolahan start as Lambert played another new formation, with Steve Morison starting in the captain’s place.
Hoolahan is clearly up to the task at this level. The ball just seems to stick to his feet, and the nimble little sprite also gets stuck in now and again too. Norwich have competed in all their games thus far, and players like midfielder Bradley Johnson, Elliot Bennett et al are certainly earning their corn. But Norwich do often appear a little workmanlike in formation. Often lacking that diamond-cutting quality that Wes Hoolahan, who played much of last year on the tip of said jewel, gives them.
Wes Hoolahan will cause anyone problems. Intuitive, courageous and with a keen eye for goal he pulls defenders all over the park. However up till now he has been used rather sparingly.
Hoolahan is clearly up to the task at this level. The ball just seems to stick to his feet, and the nimble little sprite also gets stuck in now and again too.
Hopefully for City, Hoolahan’s injury late on against Bolton, was cramp, because of all the options they have open to them, he is by far the most dangerous. Leave him out and Norwich lack those meat-tearing canines. When Wes came on in the second half at home to West Brom, the team were instantly lifted. Often with two or three players circling him, Hoolahan went straight down their throat. Hoolahan also feeds off of the wide-ball scraps played into the box, whilst most of his own through-balls are inch perfect.
Whether he plays as a striker, or at the tip of the diamond – in reality he seems to play in a floating role all over the park – Hoolahan is a luxury that maybe Norwich can afford. Wes, or ‘Wessi’ has he is known, started in the first game at Wigan and scored. Rather than playing to avoid early deficits (a threat they can’t entirely avoid as seen against West Brom, Wigan and Chelsea), maybe Norwich would do better to play for that early goal themselves and then shuffle the pack.
It’s difficult for many promoted managers in this league to get the levels of respect right. Ian Holloway almost kept Blackpool up with virtually zero respect for the opposition but ultimately he couldn’t mix it up enough. Paul Lambert may be guilty of showing the opposition a little too much admiration, thus far. Stoke were there for the taking. West Brom only marginally shaded it against a rather flat Norwich formation. Norwich were nervy in their opener at Wigan, but Chelsea looked rattled for a while. City haven’t been rolled over yet (OK so their start wasn’t that tricky) but Lambert must be thinking that some of these sides aren’t all that, and with Wes in the starting line-up maybe the East Anglians start to demand a little tip of the hat themselves. Refs are certainly keen to award penalties against the Canaries at the moment, and so without any flair on the pitch, Norwich are going to find it tough in this league, with its often gossamer-thin margins of victory.
Hoolahan put in another tenacious, captain’s performance at Bolton and with three points earnt – on an afternoon when all three promoted sides won – maybe Lambert will now unlace the gloves. Norwich are a quick, combative team and with that all-important first win secured, maybe it’s time to add a little razzle dazzle to proceedings. Maybe it’s time to ‘go Wes!’
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