Norwich hosted Steve Bruce‘s Sheffield Wednesday at Carrow Road. The Canaries last suffered defeat on 5th January this year against League one Portsmouth in the FA Cup. Manager Daniel Farke is in his second season at Norwich and chasing promotion to the coveted Premier League. This time they were looking to see Sheffield Wednesday off with a win and hoping to extend their lead at the top of the league after Leeds went down to a 10 man Wigan Athletic side.
In this tactical analysis, we will look into how Sheffield Wednesday almost came away with all three points from Carrow Road with an excellent defensive display.
Daniel Farke went with his trusted 4-2-3-1 formation after still being undefeated in the league this year. The only change was that Leitner came in for Cantwell in the right of midfield.
Steve Bruce went for an old school 4-4-2 which has seen a mixture of results in recent weeks. Westwood was left on the bench as Dawson surprisingly replaced him between the sticks. Palmer was switched to left-back as Fox was replaced by Iorfa. Matias came on at left wing for Reach as Onomah replaced Bannan in the middle. Forestieri replaced Hooper up front.
Sheffield Wednesday Smother from the off
As soon as the whistle blew for kick off Sheffield Wednesday burst into action. They had no intention of giving one of the most dangerous sides in the Championship time on the ball. This immediately startled Norwich who probably expected the mid-table team to set up more defensively to snatch a draw.
Below you can see this in action. Norwich has the ball in midfield. However, Sheffield Wednesday have pressed onto the ball from multiple angles. With no option at all going forward, Norwich play the ball back to the keeper to reset.
Once the ball is played back, Wednesday press as a team with vigour up the field. The strikers work together, one of them presses the keeper directly whilst the other split marks the left wing back and centre-back. This is to discourage a pass to the defensive line as it’s unsafe.
With no other option, the keeper is under pressure and forced to panic kick away to safety and straight at the feet of a Wednesday player who then finds teammates in support to build an attack.
Wednesday’s line beating longballs
After the game started to settle it looked fairly clear that Wednesday couldn’t out pass Norwich with their 4-2-3-1 set up. One method which did work was the long ball. Made famous by Graham Taylor in the early ’90s is often scoffed at in today’s modern game. Nevertheless, if performed correctly and accurately, this super direct way of attack can cause great problems for any team.
Above, the centre-back has spotted winger Matias high and right on the wing in space. An accurate long ball is sent over beating three lines. The circle far right and first line of defence is Pukki. Second is the attacking three of Hernández, Stieppermann and Leitner along with the defensive midfielders McLean and Trybull.
As you can see the method completely skips out play in the middle and solved Wednesday’s problem of trying to outpass a well organised Norwich team. Wednesday hit 68 long balls during the entire came with 37 of them being successful (54%). On average this is a pretty good ratio and compared to their top of the league opponents who only managed 17/58 shows practice on the training field paying off for Bruce’s men.
Norwich go down the left
Norwich have a history of favouring the left side of the field when attacking this season. Indeed, this game was no exception. Wing-back Lewis linked up with left winger Hernández quite well, playing overlaps and underlaps to beat the two lines of Wednesday’s defence. Once the defence was beaten a cross would be sent in for Pukki in hope for a goal scoring opportunity.
Above, Norwich has yet another overload on the left and attack with vigour catching Wednesday out yet again.
Wednesday combat Norwich’s overload
Steve Bruce must have seen the threat that Norwich possessed down the left-hand side with them choosing this route extensively during the season. His men combatted the overload by simply bringing numbers across. This may not seem quite tactically astute but it was the manner in which Wednesday performed this with utmost discipline.
Wednesday’s stifling defence
With two brilliant goals from either team followed by a controversial goal by Fletcher in the second half, Bruce’s men found themselves on the verge of an upset at Carrow road. Wednesday went into super defensive mode. The accurate long balls which were finding teammates were now being hit aimlessly upfield to relieve pressure. Indeed, the statistics show 44 clearances by Wednesday a reflection of their defensive nature.
Well organised man-to-man marking was very effective for Wednesday and was frustrating Farkes’ team to no end.
Above and below demonstrate Sheffield Wednesday’s man to man marking. Each defender clearly his own man to mark. What was impressive was their ability to pick runners up and change markers almost instinctively.
Below we can see Wednesday opting for a low linear defensive line with no real shape. The attackers merely pressed the ball when Norwich was in possession around the box.
All to no avail. Norwich managed to squeeze a last minute goal with their only shot on goal in the second half winding the game up 2-2.
As we can see from the momentum chart Norwich piled on the pressure extensively during the second half. However, Sheffield Wednesday did have a fair amount of possession and looked dangerous when going forward indicated by six shots on target. Norwich consistently missed big chances despite the constant pressure. Farkes’ men looked frustrated at not being able to effectively break Wednesday down and get a decisive goal.
Steve Bruce’s Wednesday will no doubt be gutted they didn’t manage to hold out for all three points with a last equaliser. A draw not being a good enough and they will miss out on the playoffs this year.
Farke didn’t celebrate when the equalising goal went in. Clearly annoyed at Norwich’s performance. Fortunately for them, Leeds suffered a loss. With two games to go Norwich look destined for top-flight football next year. However, they must improve to stand any chance of survival in the Premier League.