Alex Neil returns to Carrow Road as Norwich face Preston North End, despite Preston winning midweek, neither side are in great form, so this will be a cracker, right? Andrew Lawn spoke to Aaron Briggs about 4231, Declan Rudd and mid-table purgatory.
Andy - the first place to start is with Mr Alex Neil. He seemed to start really well and then fade, although you won last night, how do you think he's doing?
Aaron Briggs - I think it's worth stating first that whoever took over from Simon Grayson was always going to have a hard task. North End on paper overachieved the last few seasons and so to take that squad and somehow try to improve from there with little to no investment was never going be easy.
Neil's attacking approach has been a breath of fresh air in comparison to Grayson's defensive style and you can already see players, like Daniel Johnson who is a bit more attacking minded, regaining some much needed confidence going forward.
The flip side of Neil's style is that I can already see some of his infamous stubborn inflexibility. There's been times this season when I've thought he could freshen things up during games that haven't been going our way by changing systems from 4-2-3-1 but in those situations, he always seems to make like for like changes only. Part of me is beginning to wonder whether or not we actually have the players to fit his style as we're often found creating few clear-cut goal scoring chances despite having loads of possession.
I wanted to get on board for the ride with Neil's appointment but I thought I'd give it 12-14 games to see if the wheels would stay on the bus and unfortunately, they didn't. I have hope for him and definitely don't see him as the "Scottish Westley" like some of our fan base do but he can't keep saying the down turn is just because of the horrendous injury crisis we've had at the back - we weren't exactly a free scoring outfit before that…
Ah the good old 4-2-3-1, some things never change. How has he done defensively? Again, it seemed to start well in that regard and then crumble? Here he was frequently very attacking but it meant we kept conceding the same goal as we lost the ball with our full backs on the edge of the opposition box and were more open than a Simon Cowell shirt. Please tell me that still happens...
Like I said, we've had horrible luck with injuries so we've been missing a lot of first and even second choice players at the back but the system Neil uses has that exact flaw you mentioned.
At Ipswich away a few weeks ago, they sat deep and had the likes of McGoldrick defending on the right to win the ball and initiate the counter aimed at isolating that empty area left by the full backs pushing on. They won 3-0, astounding given big Mick's uninspiring dreary brand of football.
Away from home, we have been ok on the counter, but at home we really struggle to break teams down, so yellow fingers crossed Neil remains gung-ho in an attempt to prove a point to Delia and co.
Given you said you over-achieved last season, what are expectations like at Deepdale this season?
I expect we will give it a go and fair play to Alex Neil, he's not afraid to go all out for the win. I think we miss a lot of the grittiness we had under Simon Grayson - do you remember this fixture last season? North End won 0-1, we defended well, made it really difficult for Norwich and took one of the few chances we had in front of goal. I can't see this kind of performance happening with things as they stand at the moment.
As far as the season goes, a few weeks ago everybody was looking up and I think universally our ambitions lie around getting in the playoffs pack but we'll need to get ourselves sorted bloody quickly or we'll be stuck in mid table purgatory.
Last season was a horrible game of football, which I thought PNE did superbly to execute their plan.
Who have been your stars this season?
Ben Pearson (when not picking up silly bookings), Tom Barkhuizen and Josh Earl for me.
How about young Declan Rudd? He got injured early on in his debut if I recall, having never been trusted by Alex Neil, is he on the way back?
I was a very impressed with Rudd during his loan spells with us previously so I was delighted when Grayson signed him early in summer. The one thing that was always going to be difficult was him claiming a regular start as Maxwell is a very good keeper in his own right plus is better with his feet than Rudd is.
So far this season Rudd has mostly been warming the bench, but I guess he can look at this way - he's on a 3 year deal whereas Alex Neil's is only 12 months.
I feel for the lad, he always had promise, but never really took the chances that came his way here and then in the blink of an eye he was 26 and running out of time.
Now you live around these parts, so what have you made of City's new approach and start to life under Farke as an outsider looking in?
I've not been to see Norwich under Farke so I can't comment on any changes he's made to the team's playing style etc but from results I'd say he's not exactly hit the ground running. As an outsider I would expect Norwich to be right up there with the likes of Wolves, Middleborough and Villa but I'd say you have to give Farke a full season if he's to really have a fair crack at his revolution.
THREE things; first, there are two events taking place at Carrow Road tomorrow before the game, worthy of your attention and support. The first is Proud Canaries rainbow lace giveaway from outside the club shop. The second sees Barclay End Norwich meeting in the Barclay Lower bar pre-game to discuss how we can improve the atmosphere together, with all those who want to be involved.
Second, did you know we have a new podcast? It's available via iTunes and Soundcloud. Alternatively you can just listen to it in your browser via our podcast page. Thomas Markham-Uden from Barclay End Norwich was this week's guest. He gives his thoughts on the atmosphere at Carrow Road and what can be done to improve it
Second, to keep AlongComeNorwich advert free and to help us fund additional initiatives aimed at improving the Carrow Road atmosphere, we occasionally produce exclusive t-shirts/merchandise.
This time we've produced garments celebrating our rightful place as the Pride of Anglia. As always, we take no profit from these and put all the revenue back into the site and things we can all enjoy.