The recent upturn in our defensive ability is very timely considering that we are heading to the Riverside tonight.
Middlesbrough have a formidable record at home this season. Three wins and a draw from their four games so far and with a striker in Britt Assombalonga who has five goals already.
Having said that though, Norwich dealt comfortably with Bobby Reid on Saturday, the only player to have scored more than Assombalonga (6) in the Championship this season.
The defensive bedrock has been built on the arrival of Timm Klose and Marco Stiepermann into the back four. The bad news about tonight’s game though is that Marco looks set to miss the game with a calf injury.
That means that former Boro man, James Husband is likely to deputise in Marco’s place. Husband has had a tough start to life at Carrow Road and always looks better going forwards than he does actually defending, to me anyway.
He joined City in the summer for a rumoured £1m with some of the local press up there saying that they were disappointed he was leaving as he was ready to challenge this season. Hmm, we’ve not seen a lot of that yet but at least it sounds like there could be a player in there somewhere.
Wes Hoolahan is another doubt with a swollen knee and Mario Vrancic is definitely out with a calf injury. On the plus side, there is an outside chance that Nelson Oliveira may return but don’t hold your breath.
Four clean sheets in the last four league games is the real story here though and all four of Pinto, Klose, Zimmermann and Stiepermann have shown their steel during that run. The fact that Grant Hanley is in reserve means that our defence is probably as strong as it’s been since the days of Fleming, McKay, Drury and Edworthy.
Hanley probably assumed that he’d walk into the side having joined after the 4-0 mauling at Millwall but he will have to wait his turn and that looks likely to mean an injury, suspension or a change of formation to three at the back.
That could actually happen at the Riverside, we’ll have to wait and see.
Another massive factor has been the performance of Tom Trybull, usually with Alex Tettey in front of the back four. Trybull has the same sort of bite in his game as Tettey but unlike him, he has greater technical ability with the ball. It’s also refreshing to see a defensive midfielder at Carrow Road who doesn’t just pass sideways.
I had the chance to quickly say ‘hello’ to Tom in the Gunn Club after the game on Saturday and as Hunter and I approached, he was sitting but immediately stood up to shake Hunter’s hand.
Manners make the man, I think the saying goes.
Even when the defence has been breached, Angus Gunn has been on hand to keep the clean sheet that all keepers and defenders cherish. He has looked more and more assured when called upon, which hasn’t been too often of late. If the bright lights of Manchester City hadn’t come calling, Angus could’ve been City’s number one by now, anyway. The fact he’s here now though is all that matters.
The only problem at the moment is scoring goals but at least we’re making chances. It’d be much more worrying if we weren’t. I’m sure that if we keep playing like we are and creating those chances that we will start taking them.
Any team in this league would miss their best attacking midfielder and their best striker, with at least one of those hopefully soon to return and if Alex Pritchard’s Twitter account is to be believed, he fancies a return in mid-November, despite his coach’s opinion of it being the new year. Fingers crossed.
Middlesbrough will be tough but it’s one of those games that we shouldn’t fear too much, shouldn’t overthink. Daniel Farke has got things on an even keel now and we should be looking up, rather than down from now on.
Hopefully that will continue tonight.