Premier League Preview: why Redmond is key for Norwich

Nathan Redmond

Nathan Redmond

Here are The Football Lab’s previews for 2 of the weekend’s games in the Premier League. Chelsea and Aston Villa look to recover from poor starts to the season when they meet at Stamford Bridge, while Norwich search for a third win of the season when they travel to bottom-of-the-table Newcastle.

Chelsea v Aston Villa

Following Aston Villa’s 1-0 defeat to Stoke, manager Tim Sherwood said that he will use the international break as a way of getting his players fitter. Sherwood is certainly not without his faults this season, but where this blog has some sympathy with him is the slow transfer activity from the club this summer. Villa signed 7 players in the 2 weeks that preceded the league season and as a result, many of these new players had not had a full pre-season to work on their fitness levels.

The good news for Sherwood is that 10 of the 11 players that started that day haven’t played international football in the subsequent two weeks, while Alan Hutton played in a fairly low key 6-0 win for Scotland over Gibraltar last Saturday. If Aston Villa can regain some intensity in their play, they could trouble what is a very shaky Chelsea back line.

The home side’s defending against Southampton last time out was utterly shambolic. With Brandislav Ivanovic having picked up an injury with Serbia, there are rumours that Kurt Zouma will start at right-back, as Jose Mourinho believes in the need for height in defence. However, Zouma is not used to playing at right-back and could become a target for Villa left-back Jordan Amavi, who has been one of the Midlands side’s best performers thus far.

The key for Aston Villa is that Jack Grealish starts. The youngster has arguably been underused this season, but cutting in from the left hand side, as he did effectively against Birmingham in the League Cup, there is potential for him to combine well with Amavi and cause problems.

Ordinarily, it would be madness to favour a team that has lost their last 4 league games away to the Premier League champions, but Chelsea simply are not performing at the moment. Their defence looks completely out of shape, their midfield reacts uncharacteristically slowly to losing the ball, Diego Costa looks a shadow of the man that scored 20 goals in 26 appearances last season and to cap it all off, the team has a clear lack of leadership.

This is more than a blip for Chelsea, this is a crisis, and there are no signs of it coming to an end any time soon.

Newcastle v Norwich

Norwich lost 2-1 to Leicester last time out and that match showed the need for more variety in this Canaries team. For much of the game, they were looping hopeful crosses and balls into the box without any real conviction. Nathan Redmond was dropped to the bench, and the fact that the team improved so drastically when he came on shows their need for a player like him to run at defenders and show some attacking intent. It takes bravery for a manager to play out-and-out wingers, but Alex Neil may be tempted to start Nathan Redmond at St James’ Park.

The other player to make an impact against Leicester was striker Dieumerci Mbokani. Many neutrals argue that Norwich are in need of a striker, which this blog would argue is unfair. As a lone forward, Cameron Jerome’s work rate and hold-up play is excellent and is a main reason why Norwich have created so many chances this season. He is also unlucky not to have scored more than one goal this season, having had one wrongly-disallowed on the opening day and found Jack Butland in inspired form against Stoke.

However, Mbokani could prove to be a little bit more clinical than Jerome and may be a useful player to have on the bench. In the first hour of matches, when games are typically tight and the ball is in the middle third of the pitch, it is important to have Jerome as the lone striker, consistently making runs to create space and unsettle the defence. However, Mbokani may be more effective in the latter stages of matches when the ball gets into the opposition box more often.

Newcastle United lost 6-1 at Manchester City last week. Ironically, the Magpies could easily have been 3-1 up at half-time with the number of chances they had. However, not for the first time this season, their defence completely fell apart and conceded 5 second half goals

Newcastle have not been strong enough in the air this season, they have not closed down shots from outside the box and they have given teams far too much space. There is a worrying lack of leadership in this Magpies side and they desperately need Steven Taylor back fit.

Another player now out injured for Newcastle is goalkeeper Tim Krul, which Steve McClaren has said could cost his side around 18-20 points. However, some might argue that Krul has been disappointing since his memorable 2014 World Cup with Holland and has conceded 65 goals in his last 40 games for Newcastle. Whether the Dutchman is in goal for Newcastle or not, their back-line will struggle. Norwich might only have won 1 league game since mid-August but they have only failed to score 3 times since January and will head to the north-east in confident mood.