How promotion chasing Norwich City drew at Wigan Athletic

Artwork by @chapulana

Norwich City is in the hot seat to be crowned champion and get direct promotion from the Championship to the Premier League. Over the weekend they played an away game against a struggling Wigan Athletic side, that is hoping to avoid relegation to League One. Playing against a side involved in a relegation battle is something different, as Norwich City experienced when they drew 1-1 against Wigan Athletic. Their attack would be interesting as this tactical analysis will show.

In this tactical analysis, we will look at two tactical trends during this Championship game supported by statistics. We will have a look at how Wigan Athletic’s 4-4-1-1 was constructed in attack and how Norwich City’s 4-2-3-1 was used in attack.


Line-ups Wigan Athletic vs. Norwich City

The home team fielded a 4-4-1-1 formation and was founded on a solid four-man defence as well as a four-man midfield. That solid base should be the force behind the two strikers Evans and Clarke, who should be dangerous going forward. The away team had a slightly more attacking approach with their 4-2-3-1. The defence was strengthened by a low defensive block of McLean and Trybull. With three attacking midfielders and Pukki up top, Norwich wanted to do that what they have been doing all season: attack.

Wigan Athletic’s 4-4-1-1 in attack

Wigan Athletic’s manager Paul Cook played in a rather conservative 4-4-1-1 formation against Norwich City.

Wigan Athletic 4-4-1-1

The foundation of the team was the four-man defence which kept intact during the attacks conducted by the home team. The interesting thing about Wigan when going into attacking mode was the way their midfield manifested itself. Morsy stayed close to Naismith, while James stayed close to Evans.

Morsy stays close to Naismith and James stays close to Evans

The attacks often started from dispossessing Norwich City and then create meaningful chances from the passes. The duo Morsy and James were the first ones that had an attacking mind after they got the ball.

The duo Morsy-James lead the attack after dispossessing Norwich City

When the Wigan attack started from the back, Massey didn’t close into the middle but made runs down the line on the right-hand side. On the left, this wasn’t done by wide-midfielder Naismith, but it was done by left full back Robinson, who on occasions also would make runs down the line.

Massey has two options going forward: going down the line or create space for Clarke

On this occasion, the attack was constructed over the right side of the pitch with Massey as a key player. He has two options in this instance. He can either make a run down the line and put a cross in the box or he can cut to the middle and create space for the deepest striker Clark, who would then move into the right.

Naismith, Evans and Clarke all make their way into the box

Massey goes down the line and wants to cross the ball into the box. Three players are making their way into the box in order to attack the cross and get a good opportunity to score a goal. The two strikers Clarke and Evans are in the middle, while Naismith is coming in from the midfield to create a chance as well.

Full back Robinson made the run down the line and gives a cross into the box

On another attack, full-back Robinson made the run down the line and had two options: give a cross or give the ball to Naismith who would run down the line. On this occasion, Robinson chose to give the cross into the box with Clarke, Evans and Massey ready to attack it.

Wigan Athletic were awarded a penalty at the end of the first half after a handball and James converted the penalty, which gave them the lead going into the second half.

Norwich City’s attacking 4-2-3-1

Daniel Farke’s team had a more attacking style of play with their 4-2-3-1 formation against Wigan Athletic. Norwich City played with 4 attacking players in this match.

Norwich City 4-2-3-1

Norwich City played with a low defensive block of Trybull and Mclean in front of the defence, but that defensive block was also where the attack frequently started. Hernández, Stiepermann and Cantwell assisted Pukki in attack, in order to create as many chances as possible.

Norwich City favoured attacking over the left side of the pitch with 42% of their attacks coming from that side. The left full-back Lewis would make a run down the line and had the space to do so because Hernández would go into the middle and join Stiepermann.

Lewis makes a run down the line

Lewis would deliver a cross in the box hoping that the attacking players would manage to score from it. On other occasions, Lewis would come forward, but Hernández wouldn’t join Stiepermann in the middle but would stay close the line as well.

Lewis has two options: Stiepermann and Hernández

Lewis had two options. He could either pass the ball to Stiepermann in the middle or go wide to Hernández. He chooses to pass the ball to Stiepermann, who directly passes the ball to Hernández.

Hernández crosses the ball into the middle

Hernández chooses to cross the ball into the box where Stiepermann, Pukki and Trybull are waiting to make something of it. Norwich City had 14 shots in this game of which four were on target. It was difficult for Norwich City to get something out of it because of the four-man midfield and four-man defence of the hosts.

The reason why Norwich City didn’t lose this game, was because of its direct style of play when they recovered the ball in the middle of the pitch. This was possible because Wigan Athletic also were playing attacking football, which gave more space on the pitch.

McLean get the ball from Vrančić and is going forward

Vrančić has the ball and holds it so McLean can make his run forward and run past the Wigan Athletic defence. With their direct style of passing, the visitors have the advantage over Wigan.

McLean has two options: Pukki or Stiepermann

McLean now has the advantage and knows that with one pass he will split up the rest-defence of Wigan Athletic. He has two options: Pukki on the left and Stiepermann on the right.

Pukki scores the 1-1 in the 81st minute

In the end, McLean chooses to pass to Pukki who doesn’t fail to convert the chance that is given to him. He scores his 27th goal of the season and equalises for the visitors. Norwich City had 64,9% possession of the ball during this game, but their dominance was not converted into concrete chances. The equaliser was the result of a quick break with a direct style of passing, seeing Pukki score the 1-1

Final thoughts

Wigan Athletic is in the midst of a relegation battle and they were desperate to get a result against the Championship leaders. Their determination was rewarded with a converted penalty at the end of the first half, but they couldn’t make the necessary second goal. Norwich City utilised that and scored the equaliser in the 81st minute via the prolific Pukki. Norwich City is on its way to the Premier League, while Wigan Athletic are still battling to stay in the Championship.