How to beat the system.
Currently as we sit more then half way through the Barclays Premier League, two of the three promoted sides in Norwich and Swansea City have excelled and find themselves in a more then comfortable position.
Core of British players
One of many positives to come from the success of these sides is the fact more then just the core of their side is British. Paul Lambert at the start of the season even went as far to say he won’t be adding any players from outside of Britain.
Looking at the duo’s recent fixtures’ both sides selected an impressive eight British born players. Unlike QPR, whose had significantly higher budgets available to them, these British players have been plucked from the lower leagues, or were even promoted with the club. When QPR lost to Wolves on the weekend, they also fielded eight British players; however their highly assembled squad had 46 England caps (47 including the injured Jay Bothroyd) between them at Mark Hughes’ disposal; in comparison to Swansea and Norwich whose English born players have never even got close to an England squad.
Danny Graham and Grant Holt are just two perfect examples of how to get to the top. Graham was deemed not good enough by Middlesborough and released back in 2007. He scored goals with both Carlisle and Watford which earned his move to Swansea and despite a shaky start has more goals then the likes of Fernando Torres, Danny Welbeck and Bobby Zamora.
If Graham’s rise to the Premier League was steep then Holt was like climbing Everest. Having started his career of with Workington, spells with Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest followed and a career in the second tier of English Football looked his peak; however he then joined League Two side Shrewsbury and a hat full of goals followed, which saw him move to Norwich, who were then in League One and fast forward two years to today and he finds himself a Premier League footballer.
Both Lambert and Brendan Rodgers have gambled with introducing untested home based players into the greatest league in the world and the move has worked fantastically, with calls for some of these unheralded players to be given England recognition.
Style of football
Everybody by know is aware of Swansea City’s approach, with their short passing game a joy to watch. Many Promoted sides have come up with the belief that to stay in the league you can’t afford to be brave and attempt to play football all over the pitch; however Swansea’s attacking and possession game has totally disproved that theory.
Swansea sit second in the Premier League for passes completed, only behind a David Silva inspired Manchester City. A midfield creative pairing of Joe Allen and Leon Britton, whose passing percentage even tops the mighty Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona, have adapted to Premier Life exceptionally. I even feel the step up in league suits ‘The Swans’, because they are given more time to play, in comparison to the hustle and bustle of the Championship. Rodgers has built a side that will play from the back, with Michel Vorm under clear instructions to pass the ball out instead of giving it the old heave-ho up field.
Norwich unfairly have been described as a set piece side, simply because of the threat in the air provided from both Steve Morison and Grant Holt.
Having watched them play frequently this season that couldn’t be further from the truth. Lambert has a side that plays good football and like Swansea prefer it on the floor. Wesley Hoolahan was a fantastic addition to Norwich back in 2008 and in the middle of the park, he is the Canaries most creative spark. Anthony Pilkington, a summer addition from Huddersfield Town had added not only goals and assists but genuine class on the right hand.
With Holt and Morison through the middle there is going to be the obvious urge to try and pick them out due to the aerial ability; however Norwich don’t pump it long. Norwich over the last few weeks have highlighted how strong they are on the counter attack, with superbly crafted counter goals against the likes of Wolves and West Brom recently.
It’s fair to say Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers had differing playing careers, with Lambert a Scottish international and a Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund, in comparison to Rodgers who had to retire at the age of just 20. Rodgers worked with the Reading and Chelsea youth clubs due to his early retirement.
Both managers didn’t have fantastic starts to their career as Rodgers couldn’t enforce his style of play with Reading and was sacked just a few months into the job and Lambert had an unsuccessful spell as Livingston manager.
Rodgers was offered the Swansea job at the start of the 2010/11 season and earned the club promotion via the play-offs at the first attempt. For Lambert jobs with Wycombe and Colchester United followed and with the latter side came his big move, on the opening day of the 2009/2010 season Colchester travelled to Norwich City, just relegated from the Championship and stunned their East Anglia rivals 7-1. Barely a couple of weeks later Lambert was announced as the manager of Norwich City and back-to-back promotions have followed.
Neither Norwich City or Swansea had a massive transfer budget available to them at the start of the season. Norwich spent £2.8million on bringing Morison to the club and in total £8.3million, whilst Swansea spent just less. Both sides also added shrewdly in the January transfer window, with Swansea bringing in the talented Gylfi Sigurdsson on loan from Hoffenheim as well as the short term deal of Josh McEachran from Chelsea. Norwich captured Leeds captain Jonathan Howson for a bargain £2.5million as well as Ryan Bennett from Peterborough, who was immediately loaned back.
Norwich’s key- Late goals
The Canaries have scored an incredible 10 goals in the last 15 minutes of matches and their late goals have earned them eight points, which without with leave them just above the relegation zone. Their recent 2-1 away victory’s against West Brom and QPR were perfect example of them being able to run late into a game. Both games looked set to finish 1-1; however Norwich counter attacked against both teams who are expected to be in and around them and took vital away wins.
The last time Norwich were in the Premier League they failed to record a single victory away from home, which ultimately was their downfall; however this time around they’ve won three times on their travels and have amassed 13 points (which is just one less then Arsenal).
Swansea’s key- Home form
Swansea have lost just once at the Liberty Stadium this season, and that was against Manchester United. 21 points and just seven home goals conceded represent a fantastic achievement. Because they have most of the ball, even against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United at home, sides have struggled to have scored at the Liberty, with Arsenal the only side to score twice there.
Rightly so Swansea are praised for their attacking flair but defensively they are very strong too, conceding just 29 goals in 24 games, with most of them coming on the road. Vorm has been brilliant this season for the Swans and Ashley Williams has been a rock at the the heart of the defence.
At the start of the season both clubs were tipped to struggle; however they sit 9th and 10th respectively in the Premier League ahead of their match together at the Liberty on Saturday and whatever the result, one thing for sure, this season they’ve both been winners.
Read more from Josh at the excellent The Latest Sport blog