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Daniel Brigham

Wolfswinkel can prove critics wrong (latest blog)

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Ricky van Wolfswinkel''s criticism this season is as misplaced as the abuse Jonny Howson received last year. By Daniel Brigham.Ricky van Wolfswinkel is making it very difficult for Norwich fans to defend him. It

used to be quite simple. We could say he would come good; he needs

better service; he was unlucky with his injury; it takes a while to

adapt to the Premier League. If that didn''t work we would reasonably

point out that he’s loveable on twitter and if even that wasn''t enough

then, well, just look at his adorably funny hair. How could anyone not defend him?Yet

with every minute he goes without scoring a goal – now at 1,329 (or 14

full games) – and with every chance he misses like a drunk failing to

fit a key into a lock, it becomes harder to muster those excuses without

letting doubt creep into your voice. The sight of him, hands on hips,

with an expression like he''d just seen a video of his own conception is

becoming all-too familiar. This column isn''t going to criticise

van Wolfswinkel though. I still firmly believe he is a good striker and

that Norwich are wasting a talented player. Plus there is already too

much RVW-bashing going on among the fans. Whenever Wolfswinkel

starts for Norwich something strange takes hold of Carrow Road. First

there''s a solitary ''gethooperon''. A few more individuals join in, then

pockets of fans, before it becomes a cacophony of chirps sweeping across

the stands, a dawn chorus spreading throughout the Carrow Road jungle. Gethooperon.Where''s

the logic to this? The two strikers are interchangeably as poor as each

other at the moment. Hooper has gone 938 minutes without a goal, so

wanting him to come on for Wolfswinkel is as futile as swapping Katie

Price''s autobiography for Kerry Katona''s. While Hooper is still

lauded by the majority of Norwich fans there is an unpleasant relish

among some who are lining up to attack Wolfswinkel. They call him lazy,

lightweight, out of his depth. As Noel Gallagher once said of

his brother Liam, these are people with forks in a world of soup. They

live to moan, spending 90 minutes barking out the same three or four

angry cliches in a loop, like a broken angry football Dalek, honing in

on an easy target. At the moment that target is Wolfswinkel. Last season it was Jonny Howson. You

remember that? How fans would turn on him. How he was accused of being

lightweight. That he didn''t get stuck in. That he wasn''t good enough for

the Premier League. How Carrow Road would tut and shake its giant

yellow head whenever Howson misplaced a pass. Familiar isn''t it.

Weird though, also. Because Howson has been our best player this

season. So how has he gone from being rubbish and not good enough for

this league to being Norwich''s top dog?Because he was never rubbish. Because what he went through last season is exactly what Wolfswinkel is going through now. Both

good players, they were asked to perform roles they''re not suited to.

Howson was played as a defensive midfielder. He is not a defensive

midfielder. Wolfswinkel is being played as a defensive striker, expected

to drop deep and close down defenders rather than make runs and get in

the box, which is what he is best at.In roles that went against

their natural instincts and abilities both struggled. The more they

struggled the more their confidence was lowered. As confidence drained

away so did their first touch – always the first thing to suffer when

doubts creep in. Doubt attaches itself to players like a parasite,

spreading disease throughout their body and mind. After the first touch

went, Howson’s passing deteriorated, just as Wolfswinkel''s finishing

instinct has.The more this happened, the more the crowd got on

their backs, the worse their touch became, the more the forks started

thrashing about in soup. That easily, a vicious cycle is formed.However,

Howson shows there is hope for Wolfswinkel. Playing in a more natural

advanced role this season, Howson has excelled. He has proved that the

criticism was knee-jerk and has been allowed to become the player he had

promised to be when Paul Lambert signed him. He has also shown that

last year''s shift as a defensive midfielder has added a different layer

to his game, has made him a more dynamic midfielder. It may not

look like it now but, like Howson, Wolfswinkel will be a better player

for this season''s experience. He will know he has to adapt his game to

thrive in the Premier League. A bit of increased strength wouldn''t go

amiss. But he will need help from whoever Norwich''s manager is next

season. Wolfswinkel is a poacher. Some have used this to

criticise him, but they''re mistaking poacher for goal-hanger. He is

perfectly capable of leading the line on his own. His touch is good

enough and his runs are suited to the role – but he needs the midfield

to be higher up the pitch and he needs them to play through the middle

more often. He suits a team with high-intensity passing and

explosive speed in their side. His attributes would almost certainly

have brought him goals for Southampton or Swansea this season. That''s

not the Hughton way though (which begs the question why he was bought in

the first place) but, to get the best out of him – and Hooper – that''s

how Norwich need to play next season if they are still a Premier League

club. If Norwich do adapt to Wolfswinkel’s strengths then there

is no reason why his transformation can''t be as stark as Howson''s. If

not then inevitably he will move on, start scoring goals for a good team

and we''ll be left to wonder how on earth Norwich managed to waste such a

bright talent. Daniel Brigham is features editor of The Cricketer. He tweets at @cricketer_dan

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I hope you''re right. The only way he''ll be saved with us is if we stay up and have a couple of games to spare where he can play some open football.

Howson''s last two appearences last season brought a massive change to his fortunes, 2 goals right out of the top drawer. Once we were 3-0 up against WBA, safety was secured and the players all came out of their shells. Perhaps this is what RVW needs.

I feel the premiership has suffered for quality because of the hefty price relegation brings. Every team 11th down has been poor to watch this season for the most part and nearly every match was like the final frame of the crucible, error strewn despite some great names on paper playing. The nerves creep in and any thought of expansive or risky play is quickly dismissed.

Hopefully at some point in our premiership tenure, we''ll get more of a chance to play without fear and we can perhaps produce the odd Michu or Lallana.

It''s not beyond the realms of possibility.

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Well, for me the difference between Howson and RvW is that when I thought Howson was playing badly last season I didn''t think he was the worst Norwich City midfielder I''d seen since the late 1960s...

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This is without any pretence at insider knowledge, but I have a gut feeling that RVW wont start tomorrow....

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I have to say, I''ve always enjoyed and agreed with Dan''s blogs - and once again, it''s spot on. I think RvW is out of position and playing an unnatural game and I too hope, maybe foolish optimism, that he will come good next season...


For my two penneth, I think the comment of Hooper being just as bad is a little off, in that at least he has scored this season, several times, albeit ONLY several times. I also believe RvWs starts have been misguided, especially when he''s missed several chances maybe, just maybe Hooper would have scored... but then for that matter, so might Becchio, if he gets the opportunity.


All in, my feeling for the future is - survive relegation this year. New manager in the summer, and a new lease of life for the team next season.

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RvW is likely to follow Daniel and Howsons progress; both took a while to find their feet but both have improved significantly over time.

Another good article - thanks DB.

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[quote user="Bury Yellow"]Another excellent blog but just adds to my frustration to what our manager and coaches are doing to this talented squad.[/quote]You saw it the same as me Bury, another dig at Chris Hughton but in a RVW disguise. [^o)]

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I really enjoy your writing style mate. This one did give me a chuckle."The two strikers are interchangeably as poor as each

other at the moment. Hooper has gone 938 minutes without a goal, so

wanting him to come on for Wolfswinkel is as futile as swapping Katie

Price''s autobiography for Kerry Katona''s"
As to your main point, I''m not as optimistic he''ll come good. However, I''d love nothing more than to be proved wrong.

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I was one of Ewan Roberts biggest critics in his first season with us . Boy how wrong was I .

Here''s hoping RVW turns out to be just as good ,if not better.

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As much as this blog is a good read, I still question that the manager is the problem here.   RVW has not scored goals - obviously - but we have won matches he has started in and we have scored goals in matches he has started in.   That is not an excuse - it is fact - and although he isn''t scoring goals, there are aspects of his play that have been good - to the extent he got a rousing reception when substituted against Spurs.   The scapegoating goes on.  RVW is useless or Hughton is useless because he''s not using him right.   Well which is it - or is it a combination of factors?    Many of us have seen players that have been regarded as useless - and then come good - like Iwan.   I remember when Hoolahan was villified by fans at Carrow Rd in 2007-8 - and now he is still regarded as some kind of saint by some people.   I don''t blame  Hughton - RVW has had chances to score - and that proves something is right (his positioning, his anticipation etc) - but I don''t blame RVW either - luck, his injury, his settling and adapting to a tighter league than he is used to - even the fact he wasn''t allowed to take THAT penalty.   No. Its a combination of things.   All to easy to say "no good, get rid" or Hughton is "no good, get rid" - but that demeans both player and manager - and to my mind they need support, not villification.

He will score - and I believe he will score goals for Norwich - and with Hughton as manager.   The sooner though, the better!

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Not sure his touch is good enough or his pace is quick enough. Add to that a lack of a midfielder capable of a defence splitting pass, and you''ve got a goal drought on your hands.

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This subject has been done to death already in fairness, but its always good to read your blogs.

I really dont see the comparison with Howson to be honest, but like the overwhelming majority am actually giving RVW a huge benefit of doubt this season in the belief that he will come good.

I too think it is so very easy to get on the "it''s Hoooghton''s fault" bandwagon on this one and really feel that RVW HAS been given many opportunities both in starts and also actual chances, and as such, I really put his failure down to not being ready at this level yet, and needing time to get used to the EPL, which could certainly be the case and doesnt necessarily mean that he wont make it.

Now, that all said, I have become a little worried in more recent games when unless my eyes have deceived me he has missed a couple of absolute sitters, gifts almost and also shown some very poor positioning when chances have been created and the ball put in exactly the right place for him.......its almost like he has lost his natural goal scorers instinct to make the right run and find that space and that is way more worringing than actually missing the sitters when he is in the right position.

Also, I must mention, that at this level EVERY striker in every side is expected to work hard, track back when required and close down, its just the way it is in the EPL and all of the best strikers are very good at that as well as putting the ball in the net. 

So, short term I would actually start Hooper every time despite his barren spell and trust that RVW is one for next season, but in the meantime would welcome a couple of late winners from him coming off the bench. 

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I am starting to love RVW - I love an underdog and the more the BBC have a pop at him, the more I want him to shut them up.

And - when he scores I hope celebrates because the noise might take the roof of a stand or two!

Come on Ricky!

And now, back to my Jack and Coke!

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what a load of apologist b******s! He has been utter w**k. If he scores tomorrow (and that''s his job), we can''t suddenly forget the dire performances prior. He has been given more than enough time to deliver.

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