Norwich City v West Bromwich Albion; Carrow Road, Saturday 17th September 2022, 3pm
Steve Bruce takes his side to high-flying Norwich on Saturday for Albion’s last game before the international break patently aware that he is under pressure, but confident that he is the man to turn it around. As a minimum, he needs to see a reaction from his team at the weekend and even a victory may not be enough to relieve the pressure.
What makes things more difficult is that this weekend’s opponents are the form team of the division having notched up six straight league victories and having dropped just two points at home all season. Dean Smith, who was appointed in November last year, failed to have any sort of impact in the Premier League as City lost 18 of his 27 league games in charge picking up just 17 points, but after earning just one point from the opening three league games this season, his side have not dropped a point since.
Smith made four additions to his squad this season including Brazilian midfielder, Gabriel Sara, and Chilean midfielder, Marcelino Núñez, both for undisclosed fees. Núñez has started well, scoring on his second appearance, a 2-1 defeat to Hull City, and starting all of City’s league games since he joined. Sara, meanwhile has been used only from the bench but claimed his first goal invlovement with an assist for what turned out to be the winner in the Canaries’ win over Bristol City in midweek.
Norwich’s other two additions were loans from Premier League clubs. 19-year-old attacking midfielder, Aaron Ramsey, joined from Aston Villa and has started Norwich’s last three games and also claimed an assist against the Robins but the other loan singing, Isaac Hayden from Newcastle who had been linked with Albion, is yet to make an appearance having suffered a set back in his recovery from a knee injury he suffered back in January.
32-year-old Teemu Pukki remains one of the Canaries’ key dangermen at this level and has found the net three times already this season, but that is overshadowed by the record of Josh Sargent who has scored twice as many. Sargent, a US international teammate of Daryl Dike, moved to Carrow Road from Werder Bremen at the beginning of last season for a reported fee of close to €10m but struggled last season scoring just two Premier League goals. The Championship seems to suit him better, however, and his six goals have come in the last six games.
As for Albion, the dismal performance against Blues has left Bruce with some key decisions to make. Kyle Bartley would almost certainly have been dropped after being hauled off on Wednesday evening, but Bruce stated that he has a hamstring strain and won’t travel with the squad. It would seem likely that Erik Pieters will take his place albeit it was Conor Townsend who moved into the middle of defence in that match with the Dutchman coming on in his preferred left back spot. Bruce will have had time to consider his best option, with Livermore, Okay and Furlong other options to slot into central defence as a “make-do” solution assuming Kelly is not yet ready to start a match, although the former Liverpool man is expected to be in the squad. None of them are perfect options, with pace being the biggest issue with all but Furlong, while his lack of familiarity with playing in the middle of a back four would be a concern.
Elsewhere, with Tom Rogic not yet fit enough to play, the one change that I would like to see made is for Brandon Thomas-Asante to be given a chance from the start. While his penalty was a little fortunate to be awarded on Wednesday, two goals in 50 minutes’ football is an excellent return, and his record for the season is a goal every 97 minutes when you take his time at Salford into account. While Okay and Swift were off it on Wednesday, I would keep them both in the starting line-up, but I have a funny feeling that Livermore might get a recall following his decent effort off the bench. Meanwhile, Bruce revealed on Friday that Grady Diangana has barely trained all week having tweaked his groin and feels that it may have been a mistake to start him against Blues. He is 50-50 for tomorrow and it could be that we see BTA in the middle with Grant on the left.
The fans may see this as a massive game for Steve Bruce, and that another defeat could see him gone. I’m not so sure. Bruce is under pressure from the fans, but not the board, in my opinion. I think that they will, and should, give him time for all his new signings to be fit and playing before he will be properly judged. I think he will have until the World Cup break to turn things around.
Personally, I would not be at all surprised to see Albion win at Norwich, but I would be equally unsurprised if they were to get hammered. The Baggies are like that at the moment.
Norwich City first hosted Albion at Carrow Road in September 1938 – the teams had met in the FA Cup at the Hawthorns more than three decades earlier when the Canaries were still a non-league club, but the first league meeting was as a result of the Baggies’ relegation to Division Two at the end of the 1937/38 season. The visitors won the game 3-2 thanks to a brace from Meynell Burgin and a goal from Harry Jones.
With City suffering relegation in that last season before the outbreak of World War II, the club’s would not share a league division again until 1972 when Norwich were promoted to the top tier for the first time in their history. Albion suffered their first defeat to the Canaries at Carrow Road in the November of that year with goals from Dave Stringer and Graham Paddon earning the hosts, including future Albion striker David Cross and managed by future Albion boss Ron Saunders, a 2-0 victory.
The Baggies biggest win in Norfolk came in February 1997. Norwich, who had finished 3rd in the inaugural Premier League season just four years earlier, had been relegated to Division One in 1995 and reappointed Mike Walker as manager after his failed spell at Everton. He was struggling to recreate his earlier success and Albion, then managed by Ray Harford, found themselves 3-0 up after an hour thanks to a brace from Paul Peschisolido and another from Richard Sneekes. Daryl Sutch reduced the arrears for the hosts before Pesch completed his hat trick, one of two he scored in an Albion shirt. Neil Adams scored a penalty for the hosts to make the final score 4-2.
Norwich’s biggest win over Albion is their last home league win in this fixture. In May 2013, Steve Clarke’s team were experiencing a poor end to what had been a very good season overall, and their trip to Carrow Road resulted in their biggest defeat of the season as goals from Robert Snodgrass, Grant Holt and Jonny Howson plus an own goal from Gareth McAuley made the final score 4-0.
Albion have won on all three of their league visits to Carrow Road since then, 1-0 in April 2014 thanks to Morgan Amalfitano’s goal, by the same scoreline in October 2015 when Salomón Rondón was the scorer, and on their last visit in August 2018 when Baggies fans became properly aware of how good Harvey Barnes was as Darren Moore’s team came out on top of a fantastic game winning by the odd goal in seven.
All competitions; most recent game on the right. *Lost on penalties
12 Jan 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 1 (Gayle)
Norwich City 1 (Rhodes)
Last meeting at Norwich City
11 Aug 2018 – League Championship
Norwich City 3 (Rhodes, Pukki, Hanley)
West Brom 4 (Rodriguez (2, 1 pen), Barnes, Robson-Kanu)
Albion’s Record against Norwich City
If you cannot see the tables, click here.