Norwich City are back in the big time and they’re making headlines again – for all the right reasons.
An opening day 4-1 defeat at Liverpool brought equal accusations of naivety and voices of admiration for the way that City approached their task at Anfield, never changing and always looking to go forward.
The 3-1 demolition of Newcastle United at the weekend brought nothing but plaudits, especially for hat-trick hero, Teemu Pukki, with Sky Sports’ Paul Merson suggesting that City’s main man could even score between 20-25 goals, such was the impression that Pukki’s movement made on the magic man.
You can read more from Merson’s column for Sky Sports here.
Next up though is Frank Lampard’s Chelsea at home on Saturday, a game that will bring City into battle with another of the Premier League’s big guns.
Chelsea have so far flattered to deceive with just one point gained, via a 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford and a 1-1 draw with Leicester on Sunday, they are though, still a very dangerous animal.
Lampard’s appointment is seen as something of a fan appeasing move by the Blues’ owner, Roman Abramovich. The club are currently under a two-window transfer ban due to irregularities in the signing of youth players across Europe and they’ve just sold one of the best players in the league, Eden Hazard, to Real Madrid.
Traditionally, under Abramovich’s ownership, Chelsea throw money at problems like losing Hazard or changing managers, something which they’ve also done this summer but with the inability to spend any of his vast fortunes on players, Roman has brought fan favourite, Lampard and his assistant, Jody Morris, another ex-Chelsea lad, back to Stamford Bridge from Derby, where the pair enjoyed a relatively successful first season managing a football team.
They managed to get to the play-off final with Derby and then jumped ship at the first Premier League opportunity. It is, of course, a dream job for the pair of them. It’s come probably a bit earlier than either of them expected but who would turn it down in their position?
It seems likely that Chelsea are not going to challenge for the Premier League title this season and that playing some of the club’s young players is going to be a necessity.
Lampard and Morris did just that at Derby and Morris was, of course, a youth coach at Chelsea before he got the call from Lampard last season.
Against United, they were in my view, the better team for the first hour and were unlucky to be behind at half-time. Kurt Zouma is currently needed at centre-back and he looks a weak link, comparatively speaking, of course. The final score was a harsh debut result for Frank but that shows the unforgiving nature of the Premier League.
Against Leicester on Sunday, Chelsea came flying out of the blocks and tore into the Foxes right from the first whistle. Mason Mount, who was trusted by Frank while on loan with Derby last season, scored early on and such was the force of Chelsea’s start that had the scoreline been 3-0 at the break, I don’t think anyone of a Leicester persuasion could’ve argued.
For the first 20 minutes, in particular, Chelsea pressed high up the pitch with a fast tempo, causing absolute chaos in the Foxes’ final third.
Olivier Giroud was the focal point of the attack, cleverly picking out the runs of those around him like Mount, Pedro and new signing Christian Pulisic.
Pulisic is America’s great soccer hope and he has been brought up in the ways of Borussia Dortmund. Chelsea’s fast start was right up his street and he was unlucky not to score, although his influence faded when Leicester started to get a foothold in the game.
Pulisic was subbed off on 71 minutes to be replaced by Willian, emphasising the embarrassment of riches at Lampard’s fingertips. He had, however, done enough in that first half to show that Chelsea have a clever attacker on their hands.
In possession though, Pulisic lost 13 of his 20 personal duels as Leicester players targeted him for swift confrontations, suggesting this is a tactic that Norwich could also employ against him to try to quickly win back the ball.
He has a high work rate and likes to drift in-field from the left. He is generally good on the ball though and had a pass success rate of 85.7%, although he only had two touches in the Leicester penalty area.
Chelsea surrendered possession of space to Leicester quite often as the second half wore on and James Maddison seemed to have acres of space at times. This is something that Norwich will hope they can exploit too, knowing as we do that the likes of Cantwell, Stiepermann and Buendia can exploit that if Chelsea do the same thing again.
Lampard played two “defensive” midfielders in Kante and Jorginho, although both have a lot more to their game than just breaking up attacks. Both can play and both can pick a pass.
The Chelsea bench was packed with expensive, talented players as well, underlining the quality in the squad there. A bench consisting of Alonso, Barkley, Abraham, Willian, Kovacic, Tomori and Willy Caballero is pretty impressive.
Lampard will, of course, know Daniel Farke’s Norwich City very well, having taken 4 points off them last season with Derby County.
To that end, you would imagine he will know exactly how to approach this game and how to negate Farkeball.
Having said that, Farke will also have his own ideas about Chelsea which should make for a fascinating tactical battle between the two men.
As will become the norm this season, Norwich will have to be on top form to get anything out of this game. Chelsea will be desperate to get their first win of the campaign and I’m struggling to remember, in the Premier League era, when the Blues didn’t win any of their first three games. If that were to happen, then you can expect that lose or draw the story would be all about Chelsea and not Norwich, no matter how well we had played.