Norwich are having an inconsistent season and their failure to string a series of wins together has left them in mid-table for most of the campaign.
They have only won back-to-back Championship matches once all season – at the end of September – and unless they can suddenly pick up some momentum, they could be destined for another season at this level in 2018/19.
The Canaries have been particularly out of sorts at Carrow Road, where they went seven matches without a league win between early September and early December.
In fact they have only won four of their 14 home matches and have a better record on the road, where they have won six and drawn two of their 14 fixtures.
Norwich will arrive at Griffin Park on a run of only one defeat in five games following our 2-1 win in East Anglia just before Christmas.
That loss came at home to Sheffield United last Saturday, with ex-Bees striker Clayton Donaldson on target in a 2-1 Blades victory.
Before that, however, they had won three and drawn one of their previous four matches – with their most notable result being a 1-0 triumph at Bristol City in their last away game.
They also took Chelsea to extra-time and penalties in the FA Cup third round, following a goalless draw at Carrow Road, and their agonising spot-kicks defeat last week is the reason that Saturday’s match can go ahead as planned.
One man who won’t be in the Norwich ranks on Saturday is our former midfielder Alex Pritchard, who joined Huddersfield earlier in the transfer window for a fee reported to be anywhere between £11m and £14m.
However, they have been using some of that money to bring in some fresh faces and on Thursday clinched three signings from German clubs.
The first was Cuban winger Onel Hernandez from second division outfit Eintracht Braunschweig, the second, striker Dennis Srbeny from third tier side SC Paderborn, where he has scored nine goals and provided eight assists in 15 league matches so far this season, and the third was midfielder Moritz Leitner on loan from top flight Bundesliga outfit FC Augsburg.
In case you are wondering why Paderborn sound familiar, they are the club who re-signed Nick Proschwitz after we released him in the summer of 2015.
Norwich are in a second successive season in the Championship for the first time in a decade.
A four-year spell from 2005 to 2009 ended with relegation to League One but they bounced back with successive promotions to reach the Premier League in 2011.
They stayed in the top flight for three seasons – their longest spell there since playing in its first three campaigns from 1992, when they finished third in its inaugural competition.
Relegation in 2014 was followed by immediate promotion from the Championship, but another relegation followed 12 months later.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Daniel Farke was appointed as Alex Neil’s successor at Carrow Road at the end of May.
Farke took over as Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team coach in 2015 – replacing David Wagner after he left to go to Huddersfield.
Stuart Webber, now the Canaries’ sporting director, was with the Terriers at the time that Wagner joined the club.
Farke, who spent his playing career in Germany’s lower divisions, is Norwich’s first foreign manager.
The less said about last season’s two meetings the better.
We were thrashed 5-0 by a Norwich side which had lost its previous five Championship matches and then drew 0-0 in a poor match, which had been moved back to 5.30 on New Year’s Eve by Sky.
Our miserable run against the Canaries continued when we met in the second round of this season’s Carabao Cup as they comfortably beat us 3-1.
Mario Vrancic put them ahead with an early penalty and then Yoann Barbet missed a spot-kick of our own. Vrancic doubled the lead with a free-kick early in the second half and Josh Murphy made the game safe, before Josh Clarke hit a late consolation.
However, we beat them for the first time in four meetings last month with our 2-1 Friday night win at Carrow Road.
Lasse Vibe’s first half double set up the victory, with Nelson Oliveira replying in second half stoppage time.
Q – How would you assess Norwich’s season so far?
A – Very up and down or, to put it another way, very mid-table. There have been some excellent results and performances but just as many uninspiring ones. It has all the hallmarks of a transitional season. Having missed out on promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, the mission statement for this season has been to reduce the wage bill along with the average age of the squad and generate some money in anticipation of not having parachute payments next season.
Q – What were the pre-season expectations – promotion or play-off push, mid-table or relegation battle and why?
A – No-one really knew. Daniel Farke hadn’t coached in England before and there were a host of changes to the squad in the summer. There was a hope that Norwich might “do a Huddersfield” after bringing in Stuart Webber as sporting director following his success in the same role with the Yorkshire club but, having finished 8th last season, most fans realised that improving on that having sold Jonny Howson and Jacob Murphy, two of last season’s top performers, was always going to be difficult.
Q – Why has Norwich’s season been so up and down – I see they haven’t won more than two games in a row all season.
A – It’s a new squad, with a new head coach and a new way of playing. When you also consider the number of matches key players like Alex Pritchard, Alex Tettey and Tom Trybull have missed through injury it’s no surprise that they have struggled to settle into a consistent rythym. It has certainly taken a few of the players time to get to grips with the Championship but there have been signs, most notably in the epic FA Cup tie with Chelsea the other week, that there is the makings of a successful formula at the club. It just needs a few additions in the right areas.
(Ed – Chris answered the next two questions before Thursday’s three signings!!)
Q – Do you expect any late activity in the transfer window – in and out?
A – With Alex Pritchard, Cameron Jerome, Russell Martin and Steven Naismith among those leaving this month fans will hope that the club can hold on to the rest of its stars at least until the end of the season. New additions are desperately needed though. For a couple of recent matches Daniel Farke has only had 18 or 19 fit professionals to choose from. Nelson Oliveira is the only senior striker at the club so that’s one area that certainly needs strengthening before the month is out.
Q – What business have the Canaries done so far?
A – So far only Spurs youngster Marcus Edwards has arrived on loan. I haven’t seen him play but he does seem to be highly rated. As well as the players mentioned above Yanic Wildschut (Cardiff), Marcel Franke (Dynamo Dresden) and Adam Phillips (Cambridge United) have also gone out on loan. So the squad has shrunk dramatically in January although it’s fair to point out that of those who have left only Pritchard was starting games regularly.
Q – How much will Alex Pritchard be missed?
A – He’s a huge loss in that he was one of the Championship’s most gifted creative talents as Brentford fans saw during that wonderful season he had with the club. But, given that he was injured during a pre-season friendly at Cambridge United and didn’t play for Norwich City at all this season until the end of November, you could argue that they should be pretty used to having to manage without him.
Q – Which Norwich players should we watch out for?
A – James Maddison has been the star this season. He’s actually been with the club for two years but his sparkling form this year has raised questions as to why he wasn’t part of the first team sooner. In recent weeks young left-back Jamal Lewis has looked very composed. He’s only started six games for the first team, two of which have been against Chelsea.
Goalkeeper Angus Gunn also looks a real talent. He’s on loan from Manchester City and had no first team experience before this season. He goes about his business with the minimum of fuss and being the son of Norwich legend Bryan means this breakthrough season has been one to remember for him.
Q – Which Brentford players will you be wary of?
A – All of them if the match at Carrow Road last month is anything to go by! I like Ollie Watkins a lot and Sergi Canos is something of an enigma after failing to catch the eye in his short spell as a Norwich player.
Q – Finally, are you able to give me a possible Norwich starting line-up and formation too please?
A – They have been playing 3-4-3. GK: Gunn CB: Hanley, Zimmermann, Klose WING BACKS: Pinto and Lewis CM: Tettey and Reed with Maddison and Murphy playing off Oliveira.
OPPOSITION FANS VIEWS
“Expect either a 0-0 draw or one goal from either side. If we don’t make the play-offs, I really hope the Bees do!”
Read this piece on Beesotted from City of Yellows Norwich blog here.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Norwich fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the reopening of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.
There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.
The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
This is relatively straight forward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).
Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.
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