Norwich City continued their fine Championship form with a 3-2 victory over Hull City. The victory on Wednesday night makes it 5 wins in 5 for the Canaries. Norwich remain at the top of the Championship table despite victories for both Sheffield United and Leeds.
Hull have contrasting fortunes. The Tigers sit 13th in the league and while a lat push for the playoffs isn’t totally out of the question, it does seem unlikely.
In this tactical analysis, we take a look at this midweek clash between two former Premier League sides. How were Norwich able to easily dispatch with Hull? And why were Hull unable to take anything from their trip down the east coast?
Daniel Farke set his side up in a 4-2-3-1. Norwich tend to play with a fluid front three/four. Their attack is supplemented by midfield runs from Marco Stiepermann, Tom Trybull and Kenny McLean. Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis hold their width, offering overlapping runs outside Onel Hernández and Emiliano Buendia.
Hull, on the other hand, lined up in a 4-4-1-1 which often resembled a 4-4-2. Frazier Campbell led the line with Marc Pugh often in close proximity. Jackson Irvine and Jarrod Bowen were on hand to provide direct counter-attacking runs out wide. Markus Henriksen and Kevin Stewart provided defensive steel in a double pivot. Todd Kane and Eric Lichaj are predominantly defensive full-backs and that is the role both men occupied in this encounter.
Hull, in fact, started the brighter of the two teams. The first 10 minutes were somewhat dominated by the Tigers, without creating too many big chances. As expected, Hull were set-up to counter-attack and exploit turnovers in possession. Frazier Campbell and Marc Pugh defended as a front two when Norwich had the ball. They were responsible for preventing Norwich building through the centre of the pitch.
This strategy was never really executed all that effectively. Campbell and Pugh often tended not to have enough defensive discipline to implement the plan. What also hindered this plan was the effective midfield rotation by Norwich.
The two Hull wingers, Bowen and Irvine, were tasked with sitting deep when Norwich were building play before attacking the goal directly in attacking transitions. Below are some images from the game which highlight Hull’s counter-attacking intent following turnovers in possession in the midfield area primarily.
Hull have won the ball from Norwich in the midfield third and immediately are looking to spring a counter attack with four direct runners.
In a very similar situation, but slightly deeper, Hull have won the ball. We can see clearly the runs by the four attackers as they break towards the goal.
Given the nature of Norwich’s attacking full-backs, this is certainly a sensible approach from Nigel Adkins. However, a lack of cutting edge and poor individual decision making lead to many of these situations breaking down before they became truly dangerous.
Norwich’s pressing game
Norwich’s attacking play was hugely impressive and effective. It is not hard to see why they find themselves at the top of the Championship goalscoring charts as well as the league outright. However, this attacking performance was built on an impressive counter-press.
Norwich’s attacking players were always conscious that if they lost the ball it was their duty to win it back. If they couldn’t win it back immediately they then would try to prevent the ball from being moved up-field effectively.
In the image above this awareness is on full display. Buendia is especially clever in the press. The winger has arced his run to prevent the ball from being played to two of Hull’s midfielders. This sequence of play ends with the Hull defender being forced into a difficult pass and turning the ball over.
Norwich’s attacking masterclass
Norwich really shone in possession of the ball. They attacked with fluidity and positional awareness. All the attacking players would interchange in Hull’s defensive third. When a Norwich player made a movement it was either to be in a better position to the receive a pass or to create space for a teammate to exploit. Below is a simple yet effective example.
Max Aarons has the ball at his feet. Teemu Pukki and Marco Stiepermann are near him. Stiepermann jogs towards Aarons and is tracked by Stewart. The German drags Hull’s midfielder away from Pukki who can now easily be found by Aarons.
With Stewart dragged away from the action and Irvine ball-watching, Aarons nips in behind him. Pukki has pulled Eric Lichaj with him, leaving the right-back position vacant. The one-two is played and Aarons now has green grass to run into. Three Norwich attackers are making a move into the box for the flying full-back to pick out. Moments later, following a poor cross from Aarons, there is another simple yet effective example.
Aarons has the ball in his hands for a throw-in. Marco Stiepermann makes a movement towards Aarons for the quick throw-in. Eric Lichaj is again dragged towards the ball, opening up a dangerous space for Buendia to burst into. He is found by Aarons but the cross is blocked and cleared.
Fluidity in movement
As mentioned previously, Norwich attacked with a fluid front three, and at times front four. Early in the build-up phase, wingers Hernández and Buendia held their width. When Norwich progressed the ball into Hull’s half the two were given licence to roam. In particular, they would come in from their wings. Below are some examples.
Hernández, in particular, looked to move inside from the left wing and take up positions in the centre of the pitch. This left acres of room for Jamal Lewis to overlap.
Jamal Lewis is such an effective attacking weapon given his speed, intelligence off the ball and wicked left foot. In the three examples above, we can see Hernández moving away from his wing position leaving space for Lewis to move into. This was effective throughout for Norwich. The free reign afforded to Buendia and Hernández proved pivotal in Norwich’s second and third goals.
The image above is taken moments before Norwich’s second goal. Hernández (the provider) and Buendia (the goalscorer) are both within the width of the posts. Lewis and Aarons are providing the width for Norwich and as such are holding the attention of Hull’s wide defenders. Neat interplay in the box leads the ball to eventually find Buendia who taps in from roughly the penalty spot.
This image (above) is taken moments before Norwich’s third goal. Buendia is occupying the central striking position after moving inside from the right wing. In moving towards the near touchline and away from the centre of the pitch he drags with him Hull’s deepest defender and opens the space for Pukki. Buendia flicks the ball on for Pukki who breaks clear before returning the ball to Buendia to finish.
Marco Stiepermann has been one of Norwich’s most crucial cogs this season. It was a moment of individual brilliance by the German which opened the scoring for Norwich. He combined intricate dribbling with adept positional awareness to free himself from the Hull defenders.
His third man running was a constant thorn in Hull’s side. In the image above we can see that even at 3-1 up in the 69th minute Stiepermann is committed to breaking in behind. Teemu Pukki has come short to receive the ball into feet, and as soon as this happens Stiepermann moves beyond him. The ball is initially intercepted but falls to McLean in midfield who can pick out Stiepermann in space.
Norwich wiped the floor with Hull. Their interplay and movement off the ball was too much for the Tigers to handle. This is reflected in the scoreline. Daniel Farke has really led Norwich to play some lovely and effective football. If they do eventually achieve promotion it would be thoroughly deserved.
As for Hull, this was a disappointing evening. Nigel Adkins’ side have now conceded at least twice in 12 of their last 13 games in all competitions. If they are to make a late surge for the playoffs their defensive record has to improve.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the March issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.