Every football manager claims to relish healthy competition within the squad, but Norwich City gaffer Paul Lambert faces more of a selection headache, when he comes to choose his starting eleven in the Canaries next fixture on Monday night versus Sunderland. In the previous match, away at Bolton Wanderers, Lambert chose a more reserved 4-5-1 formation, with the energetic Steve Morison preferred in the lone striker role over the more physical Grant Holt. The decision to leave Holt out was met with shock by Canaries fans, however the decision paid off as a vital three points were picked up.
But where does Lambert go from here? Sunderland propose quite different opposition, and with the crowd behind them and full of confidence after the side recorded their first league victory since returning to the Premier League, the Scottish manager will be tempted to go for a more attacking 4-4-2, recalling the talismanic Holt to the squad. The fans will expect to see their captain fantastic feature at Carrow Road, and will also expect to see an attacking line up, with City taking the game to the visiting Black Cats. Alternatively, Chris Martin has featured intermittently also in the opening stages of the season, and James Vaughan is quickly returning to full fitness. Lambert has plenty of options in the striking department, so may well choose to go with two up front.
However, by doing this he risks leaving a midfield exposed against a Sunderland side who were rampant versus Stoke on Sunday. Johnson, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Fox and Bennet made up an industrious and effective midfield that helped overcome the threat of the Trotters, and so leaving one of these out will either leave the balance of the team disrupted, or risk leaving a central two over-run, should he choose to keep Pilkington and Bennet, the two wingers in the side.
Many old fashioned fans will churn out the old footballing phrase ‘you can’t change a winning side’, which as we’ve come to see is no longer usually relevant in today’s game, but it could be in this case, as the momentum within the players could help carry them on. Even if he does keep the 4-5-1 formation, he has plenty of competition in the midfield too, with the likes of David Fox and Andrew Surman knocking on the door of the players that started at The Reebok Stadium.
No doubt that whichever team is picked by the manager, the supporters will stick with him. Whilst Holt is considered a vital figure in the Norwich squad, Lambert is more highly regarded by the support for the ‘miracles’ he has worked over the last few years. Lambert showed last weekend that he can make bold decisions for the sake of the team by leaving Holt out of his starting eleven, so he will take this in his stride. The competition for places is healthy and the depth of the squad is encouraging for Lambert, though they will have to perform to that high standard again in order to receive another positive result when they face the North East on Monday night.
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