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Norwich City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Carrow Road

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Fan Focus: Norwich fan Adam says many fans feel ex-SAFC defender Danny Batth deserves to start!

Ahead of Sunderland’s match today, we spoke to Norwich fan Adam Harvey of The Pink Un to discuss their progress under David Wagner. Are they going to come up here looking for a fight?

Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images

David Wagner took over from Dean Smith mid-way into last season, how would you summarise his tenure so far?

Difficult. He was dealt a tricky hand when he took over, with a squad lacking confidence and full of players unable to play out his brand of football.

He got a tune out of them initially, but last season ended with one win in 11 games. Pressure was mounting this summer for a fast start to the season, and we got that.

But since the injuries to Josh Sargent and Ashley Barnes the form has nose-dived. Fans have begun to question his game management and there were cries of ‘Wagner out’ from sections of the fanbase in our last game against Middlesbrough.

While Norwich are well within the playoff mix, one concerning stat is that your side have conceded the most goals in the league alongside QPR - what are the main factors behind this?

Defensive mistakes have been a common theme this season so far, with lots of points being dropped as a result.

This scenario happened in a recent away game against Coventry, when they had defended a 1-0 lead well for 85 minutes before Ben Gibson headed into his own net.

David Wagner’s system means they don’t play with a natural defensive midfielder, so when teams are good in transition and bypass the midfield duo, they suddenly look very vulnerable.

Sunderland v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship
Danny Batth made 55 appearances for Sunderland, scoring once.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Sunderland’s player of the season last year, Danny Batth, is still yet to start for the Canaries, are you surprised he can’t break into such a leaky back four?

Yes and no. He was only really signed as cover after the club sold Andrew Omobamidele to Nottingham Forest.

Lots of fans feel Batth should be given a chance to start given the defensive record. But David Wagner has put on record a few times that Ben Gibson and Shane Duffy are his preferred pair, so Batth might have to be patient for the time being.

I hadn’t heard of Jonathan Rowe until this season, and what a season he is having with eight goals already - what are his key strengths that make him so dangerous?

Explosive pace and tricky feet. He is a handful for any defender, while always looking to turn and get Norwich on the attack.

He has been one of the shining lights in a difficult start to the season. If his performances can remain consistent then he will be a Premier League player in very short order.

Norwich City v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship - Carrow Road
Jonathan Rowe’s excellent form earned him a call up to England Under-21s.
Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Norwich could be without Scotland’s number one Angus Gunn, how did deputy keeper George Long get on against Boro?

There is an argument that his positioning was wrong for Boro’s second goal, but he wasn’t helped by the defence standing off and allowing the shot to happen in the first place.

Other than that, he was solid and sturdy, as to be expected from an experienced keeper at this level.

I have been surprised by his ability to play with his feet, which is key to the way Norwich build up from the back.

Strikers Josh Sargent and Ashley Barnes were also missing against Boro in midweek, is that a problematic position for Norwich currently with those absentees?

It’s been their biggest downfall. Sargent and Barnes had struck a great relationship, and both had started the season scoring goals in a free-flowing attacking team.

Since their injuries, Adam Idah has been the lone striker. His hold-up play has been good, but he just doesn’t stretch the play in the way Sargent does and is severely lacking in confidence.

They did recruit Hwang Ui-Jo on loan from Nottingham Forest late in the window, but he has offered little to nothing so far.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light
Josh Sargent scored the winner for Norwich at the Stadium of Light last season, but will miss today’s match.
Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Aside from the above-mentioned players, who do you think will cause Sunderland problems?

Gabriel Sara. A Brazilian magician in the midfield, who won the Championship Player of the Month award in August.

Four goals and five assists already this season. He’s a player who won’t be at Carrow Road past this season unless Norwich are back in the Premier League.

His vision and ability to play passes is on another level to any player in the division.

How do you think Wagner will approach the match tactically and what style of play can we expect?

Wagner is very stubborn in his approach. It’s a counter-attacking style, where they allow opposition teams to dominate possession, but they will try pick them off and hit on the break using the pace of Rowe, Hernandez and Sara.

The bigger problems come with his in-game tactics and making substitutions. At times this season, it has felt like he has made subs more out of habit than necessity.

The players on the bench are a massive drop in quality to those in the starting XI, which is why they often ship late goals.

Norwich City v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship
David Wagner previously guided Huddersfield to promotion from the Championship.
Photo by Cameron Howard/Getty Images

Which eleven players do you think he will select?

Long; Giannoulis, Duffy, Gibson, Stacey; Forshaw, McLean; Sainz, Sara, Rowe; Idah.

Sunderland have a dreadful home record against Norwich of late, with our last win coming in 2012 - what is your prediction for the final score?

Both teams are on poor runs of form and in need of a win. I think they’ll cancel each other out. 1-1.


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