An exciting game from every viewer’s perspective. Although neither fans would have been happy that their side came away with just a draw instead of a win, no one could deny that it was an exciting game enjoyed by all. Calling the match, a neutral’s dream might seem like an exaggeration, but Norwich City FC and Preston North End FC served up a treat of a match which ended 2 goals apiece when the final whistle blew. Both teams came onto the pitch with a game plan in mind and executed it well given that they were able to exploit the other teams’ weaknesses.
This is the tactical analysis of the match played between Norwich and Preston in the English Championship, on 19/7/2020. In this analysis piece, we will take a look at the tactics employed by the two managers.
Tim Krul started in goal for Norwich City FC, with Xavi Quintilla, Ben Godfrey, Christoph Zimmerman, and Max Aarons completing the back four ahead of him, from left to right respectively.
Oliver Skipp and Kenny Mclean started as the double pivot in midfield.
Todd Cantwell and Onel Hernandez started on the right and left-wing respectively with Kieran Dowell starting as the number 10.
Teemu Pukki started up top as the number 9 completing the lineup for Norwich City FC.
Declan Rudd started in goal for Preston North End, Joe Rafferty, Ben Davies, Patrick Bauer, and Darnell Fisher completing the back four ahead of him, from left to right respectively.
Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson started as the double pivot in midfield.
Scott Sinclair and Tom Barkhuizen started on the right and left-wing respectively, with Alan Browne starting as the number 10.
Sean Maguire started as the number 9 up top completing the Preston North End FC lineup.
Norwich City and Daniel Farke rely on their philosophy to get a result
The 19/20 season was always going to be a tough one, which is why most fans of the Canaries were realistic in terms of their expectations from Farke and were just happy to be back in the big league. Farke has garnered a reputation over his time at the club, that he was still considered the right man to lead them, even after they got relegated from the Premier League last season at the bottom of the table.
They started the game very poorly, as Preston came at them from every angle and were looking dangerous right from the start. They couldn’t get the ball at their feet, and even when they did have the ball, they were giving it away cheaply. They had a relatively high line, which allowed the opposition the space to run in behind very often. They defended as a unit in an attempt to deny Preston any opportunity to play through them. They didn’t press the ball very aggressively and had a system of man-marking in terms of how they pressed the ball. Their defending was shaky and nervy at the start. The penalty that they conceded while defending a corner was very cheap and could have been avoided with better defending.
Krul was very comfortable in possession and was playing as a sweeper-keeper for the side. But the players ahead of him were very nervous in terms of their passing as it looked like their passing needed to improve very significantly if they were to match their opponents who seemed to be running away with the game. Their play and possession needs a considerable amount of work, as they took a lot of time to get their heads in the game. They were still trying to find their feet even after the 1st quarter of the game had been played out.
But they were slowly trying to pull things together, as they were starting to mount pressure on Preston North End, and started to get their groove together. Their set pieces were nowhere near good enough whenever they took a corner or a free-kick from a dangerous position, it was too easy for the opposition to intercept it. But their first goal ironically came from a set-piece as Pukki was left unmarked in-between Preston defenders, as he headed a soft header into the near post.
They were patient in terms of building their play and finding spaces and creating chances, as they were creating enough chances, as well as allowing the opposition to do the same against them. Daniel Farke has instilled his philosophy in this side and drilled them into it, which is why they were still not going outside and trusting his tactics and style of play. But their defensive lapses didn’t seem to be fading away, as Fisher was left unmarked when he thrashed Preston’s 2nd goal in, just before half time.
They didn’t have a particular attack style set, as they would use the wings as well as the space in midfield and the open spaces left unmarked by the opposition to create chances as they were trying to find a way back into the game. Their start to the second half was in contrast to the start they had to the first one, as Norwich were very bright and looked to have fixed the problems, they had in the first one. They had upped as well as improved their tempo from what they had been playing in the first half.
As they were gaining heavy spells of possession and were becoming harder to knock off the ball, their attacking spells, and more specifically, the midfielders would either drop deep or shift out wife, leaving the opposition double pivot with no one to mark, and overloading one side to their advantage. And as they were matching Preston for their physicality, they would seldom give away cheap fouls due to overcommitting to a challenge. Norwich were starting to take over the half, as well as the game, as the confidence that they had started to ooze out, and everyone started to visibly improve in terms of their play and match impact.
They were reaping the benefits of playing their way and not giving in to the pressure of changing things around to avoid a negative result. Even though they were creating a lot of chances and a fair few good chances that they weren’t able to smash them in and their finishing was poor on the night as well, as they could’ve and maybe even should’ve come away with a positive result. Their intensity and dedication ultimately paid off, as Norwich grabbed an equalizer late in the game to take a share of the spoils.
Preston get the job done with their tactical setup.
Alex Neil is entering his fourth season in charge of Preston North End FC, and in the current climate of managerial turnover, it is an achievement that he has managed to sustain himself in this job ably. His side came to Carrow Road with a plan in place to get the better of Norwich and almost achieved the result they were after, but ultimately had to settle for a hard-fought but fairly deserved draw.
They started the match very positively, as they were attacking and creating chances right from the start. They did use the long balls quite often, to get the ball up the pitch as quickly as possible by-passing the midfield. Their full-backs were very expansive as both the full-backs would regularly get involved in the attack and would be one of the key personnel to get the ball into the box from out wide. And with space in behind the Norwich defense, the forwards had the opportunity to run in behind the defense often, and it worked well whenever the ball was sent long from their defensive compatriots.
Their set-up was compact but relatively wide, as the full-backs provide width as the wingers would more often than not tuck inside. And with their flying full-backs, it was relatively comfortable to play out wide, and it also allowed to cut through Norwich directly through the middle of the park which was overcrowded to their advantage. They would often switch from playing out wide to through the middle to accommodate the runs made by their teammates and the players available to pass. Their style of play and the slickness of their moves and sleek passes were very easy on the eye and it made them look more attractive than their opponents. They were very comfortable on the ball as well as in possession.
They took a deserved lead from the spot around a quarter of an hour as Sinclair put them one up. They had been the better team right from the start and the lead was just what they had deserved for their start. After their first goal, they started to impose themselves onto Norwich and were taking the game to Norwich, who seemed to have no answers for all the questions that were being asked off of them. They were aerially dominant and their passing was excellent and were excelling defensively as well as on set-pieces as well. Their physicality was one of the positives that played to their strengths their opponents weren’t able to cope with it ably enough.
They gave away an equalizer from a very weak set-piece as Pukki was left unmarked and Rudd couldn’t handle the ball properly as he let in a goal that was very avoidable. The game was starting to stabilize as the half was coming to a close, and Preston took the lead from a fairly even spell in the game and were happy to settle into their tactical game plan. They weren’t overdoing what they had planned for themselves but they weren’t slacking it off either. Preston looked better than Norwich both defensively as well as on the attack.
As the second half started, they were immediately started on the back foot, but that didn’t deter them from maintaining their tempo and style of play. But as Norwich City grew into the game and Preston started to endure larger spells without the ball, they seemed lost as they didn’t know what to do and how to clearly stop their opposition in their tracks before they could pose any serious threats. They would give away cheap free-kicks randomly due to their physical imposition.
As the game progressed deeper and deeper, Preston started to feel the pressure, but they weren’t giving in to that pressure and were fighting Norwich rather than backing down. They maintained their threat on the counter as NCFC were light in defence due to their overcommitment to their attacks. This allowed Preston to maintain their tactical implementation successfully. Their creativity was the reason they were still in the game, despite being on the backfoot in the majority of the second half. They maintained their tenacity in defence and in attack even after they had conceded the equalizer late in the game.
An end to end game between two tenacious teams ended all square at 2-2 at full time. With Norwich having a slightly higher share of possession at 54% to Preston’s 46%; it seems that Preston used the ball better than their opponents as they mustered an XG of 2.84 to Norwich’s 1.24. Both teams were slightly eased off in terms of their pressing as both Preston and Norwich maintained a PPDA of 11.4 and 11.6 respectively. With both sides taking over the game turn by turn, the relatively average pass accuracy of 79% (Norwich) and 76% (Preston) is easily understandable.