The Villa Appetiser: Norwich City v Aston Villa 2018
The Dean Smith era is off to a winning start.
A good, solid display against Swansea in front of a sold-out crowd (admittedly with a few nervy moments) will certainly give Villa’s squad a much-needed shot of confidence.
It will be interesting to see how we approach away games under Dean Smith.
Villa haven’t won away since the opening game of the season against Hull, and with a trip to Loftus Road on Friday, can’t afford to lose any momentum.
As mentioned in our Swansea preview, Smith failed to win a single away game this season with Brentford, but supporters take encouragement from Saturday’s performance, and the prospect of a more attacking approach to matches away from home.
Can we pick up three points at Carrow Road?
For an in-depth view of the opposition on Tuesday, we consulted a die-hard Norwich fan and his thoughts can be found throughout this preview.
6th in the league table with the 14th best home record.
Last five matches at home: W 3, L 2
13th in the league table with the 16th best away record.
Last five matches away: D 3, L 2
Farke on both teams
“In the last season we finished mid table and sold some quality players, so normally you can be happy when you are not faced with a relegation battle.
“But to already have so many points and be where we are in the table is outstanding. It is extraordinary and I hope it can continue.
“Our points are pretty respectful at the moment and we are being noticed. We want to be successful and go further on and keep getting these results.
“I am full of respect for Dean Smith’s work already from Brentford, and with John Terry as an experienced player beside him.
“I am pretty sure they will climb up the table, but hopefully they can wait a few games before they start.”
Smith on Norwich and improvements
“It will be a tough game – they’re a footballing team.
“At Brentford last season we had two tough games against them.
“Daniel [Farke] has got them playing really good football – they’re fairly fluid in their movement, but they’ve got really good players and they’re sat in the play-off spots at the moment, so they’ve started the season reasonably well.
“[Against Norwich] I’d like to see us retain the ball a bit better. Our ball retention at times was a little bit sloppy, and I also want us to make use of the turnovers a lot more than we did.
“From the opportunities we could have created a lot more chances which puts the game out of reach for the opposition. That’s something we need to get better at.
“[We need to] also keep our energy levels. When we feel that there’s a time to rest, we rest on the ball.”
13th May 2012 – Norwich 2 Villa 0
With relegation avoided, McLeish’s Villa didn’t really show up at Carrow Road as first half goals from Holt and Jackson secured the home victory.
This also led to the somewhat surreal chant of “Paul Lambert’s Claret and Blue Army” as the fans made their choice of the next manager clear.
Players to Watch
Maddison’s departure has forced the squad to share the goal / assist burden, with Cuban winger Onel Hernandez and former Dortmund prospect Moritz Leitner catching the eye.
In addition to this, 20 year-old Norwich local Todd Cantwell has earned praise in midfield alongside young fullbacks Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis.
Lewis, who recently signed a new five-year deal, scored against Chelsea last season and was called up by Northern Ireland this year.
If he can impose himself on the game, our Norwich voice tells us, Hutton and Elmohamady will be in for a tough game.
Smith failed to win a single away game this season with Brentford
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
After an average campaign last season, Norwich’s patient faith in manager Daniel Farke seems to have paid off.
While we were able to keep hold of Grealish, Norwich lost both Maddison and Murphy to Premier League moves in the Summer, with keeper Angus Gunn’s loan spell coming to an end – yet they now sit in the play-off places.
This time last year the Canaries endured a torrid time after they returned from the international break and went on a run of 1 win in 10. Fast forward a year and Tuesday’s opponents have just recorded an impressive 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest, and have won seven of their last 10 games in all competitions.
According to our Norwich source, his team received glowing reports from Forest fans this weekend, some of whom claimed were “the best team [they’ve] faced all season!” So why have things gone right for Norwich?
The Norwich fan we consulted credits this upturn in form to a vastly improved team spirit and togetherness at Carrow Road, thanks in part to consistency in the playing personnel – other than the three players mentioned above, the squad is largely the same.
Jordan Rhodes is a proven goalscorer at this level (we should know, we tried to sign him!) and will undoubtedly trouble our defence, who despite a clean sheet on Saturday, looked a little nervous.
It’s been either win or lose for Norwich at Carrow Road this season – they’re yet to draw a home match.
Whether that’s a good or a bad thing for Villa is hard to say, but we do have a terrible record at Carrow Road – Norwich have won each of their last three home league matches against Villa.
We haven’t picked up any points in Norwich since a 1-0 win in 2013, which saw Libor Kozak find the net, not particularly encouraging when you consider we have also failed to win any of our last five away matches.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ll also be without McGinn, who was a man of the match contender against Swansea with his energetic display.
It will be a difficult task for Smith to build on Saturday’s victory as we’re winless in our last six away matches (in all competitions). The last time we did worse than this was in between August 2015 and October 2016, a run which lasted 27 games.
“I am full of respect for Dean Smith’s work already from Brentford. I am pretty sure they will climb up the table” – farke on villa
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
There were certainly promising signs in Dean Smith’s first Villa game.
Even if we did fade a little in the second half, it was an encouraging display, with Taylor and Nyland particularly impressive.
With three matches in six days, Smith will surely rotate the squad on Tuesday. While Bolasie and Kodjia struggled to make an impact against Swansea, they could start against Norwich and push for a regular place in Smith’s team.
Hourihane too will surely be in contention for a starting position in the week. His personal record against Norwich is encouraging too – he’s scored four Football League goals against them.
Norwich have only lost four games this season in all competitions, but three of those defeats have come at home, losing 3-4 against West Brom, 0-3 against Leeds, and 0-1 against Stoke.
Several of Norwich’s players have impressed this season, but they will be without Finnish striker Teemu Pukki, who arrived on a free transfer from Brondby in the Summer.
The international break saw Pukki pick up a hamstring injury and the absence makes Norwich’s attack look a little less dangerous, according to our Norwich source.
As we alluded to in the introduction, Smith will almost certainly introduce a more positive approach to away games that could see us make the most of our attacking players.
Generally, our record against Norwich is decent, and we’ve won seven of their last 10 games against them in all competitions.
Despite being six places away from Norwich, there’s only three points difference, so a win could see us climb up the table significantly.
Hopefully we can put in a better display than recent away day performances.