Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Norwich City

10th December 2022
First team
Ben Cabango Birmingham

Following the World Cup break, the Championship season resumes this weekend as Swansea look to continue their unbeaten run on home turf.

Ahead of the welcome of Norwich, preview the clash, looking at what to expect from the Canaries, the key battle and a key stat.

What to expect from Norwich

Dean Smith

Championship football returns today after the domestic hiatus due to the World Cup and the Swans have a testing clash to navigate as they welcome Norwich to the Stadium.

Despite being one of the pre-season favourites to make an immediate return to the Premier League, the Canaries head into their trip to Swansea in fifth spot, six points off the automatic promotion places and just one above Russell Martin's side.

Having spent the best part of nine years at Norwich, Martin would love nothing more than to get the better of his former employers, who do have a poor recent record in south Wales. Indeed, Norwich have lost three of their last four visits to Swansea, though that run does include a thumping 4-1 win here back in 2018.

Nevertheless, despite the quality of the squad at Dean Smith's disposal, Norwich have struggled with the expectation that they will return to England's top-tier. Smith has overseen a run of just two wins from their last 10 league matches, however a 2-1 win at Rotherham last month did end a four-game winless run on the road.

Smith has favoured a four-man backline this season, but while a 4-3-3 formation has been Norwich's most used in the Championship, he has recently used a 4-3-1-2 setup, which may again be the case this weekend.

The preference is to use USA international Josh Sargent alongside Teemu Pukki in attack, yet the former sat out his country's 3-1 last-16 defeat to Netherlands in Qatar with an ankle problem, and only jetted back to the UK at the start of the week, so he may not feature from the outset here.

That would be a boost for Swansea. Sargent, after all, has scored more goals (9) than any other Norwich player in England's second tier this term.

The thinking behind the 4-3-1-2 system is to bring out the best in on-loan midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who joined in the summer from Aston Villa. Only Chilean star Marcelino Nunez (25) has made more key passes than Ramsey (21) of all Canaries players this season, and there is a solid midfield trio backing up the latter, which in turn eases his defensive duties.

Truth be told, though, fans can expect to see a clash of two teams with similar playing styles. Swansea and Norwich rank second and third, respectively, for share of possession, and first and third for pass success rate this season.

It may well be the case that whichever side can dominate the ball will likely secure the spoils.

Key Battle

Teemu Pukki

Norwich will hope to have Sargent available, but if he does miss out then Pukki will be the main man for the Canaries.

The 32-year-old has scored six and provided four assists for Smith's side this season, and netted the fourth in the aforementioned 4-1 win over Swansea back in 2018.

Pukki has previously proven an effective goalscorer at this level, and it's vital that the Swans backline marshal the Finnish frontman accordingly to restrict his impact.

With a rating of 6.66, Ben Cabango is Swansea's third best-rated player this season and, while his World Cup journey ended on a sour note with Wales eliminated from the group stage, Martin will hope the 22-year-old returns to Swansea refreshed and recharged ahead of a gruelling festive period.

Four of Cabango's six best-rated performances this season have come at the Stadium, so home comforts should aid the youngster in the effort to stop Pukki and co.

Key Stat

Josh Sargent

Norwich are the third highest scorers in the division at the time of writing, having struck 29 times. But, in theory, that return should be higher.

Only title-chasing Sheffield United (11.1) are creating more goalscoring opportunities per game than Norwich (10.5) in 2022-23.