Norwich's open approach pays off at Wigan but may not always work

This was football with a distinct resemblance to basketball: an end-to-end affair featuring an undermanned defence.

Norwich's open approach pays off at Wigan but may not always work Are Norwich, while endearingly entertaining, too gung-ho for their own good?

Their manager, Paul Lambert, is aware of the dangers. "I don't think we can play as open at certain times of the game," the Scot conceded. "We probably won't be as open." But one of his defenders disagreed. Ritchie de Laet has been borrowed from Manchester United but has bought into Norwich's approach. "Hopefully we've shown that we can play football and we're not going to change because we're in the Premier League now," he said. "We want to get the ball down and play."

That, however, was De Laet's undoing when he first lost possession to Wigan's Franco di Santo and then fouled the Argentinian, allowing Ben Watson to put the home team ahead from 12 yards.

On the other hand, De Laet twice executed goal-saving blocks to protect Norwich's point. His central defensive partner Zak Whitbread had done likewise earlier but, admirably committed as their efforts were, the concern was that they were required to do such work at all. Lambert admitted: "We got a bit of luck."

After successive promotions there is an acceptance at Norwich that survival would represent the biggest achievement of all. "If we do that it will surpass anything we've done so far," Lambert added. An interested onlooker was the Wigan manager Roberto Martínez who, having emerged triumphant in relegation battles without compromising his passing principles, is an authority on the art of elegant endurance in the Premier League.

The Spaniard says Norwich remind him of those other unlikely arrivals in the top flight: Blackpool. "In terms of the freshness, the bravery and belief with which they play, there are similar aspects," he said. "I think the offensive balance is a real risk but that's how they get rewards. They've got very talented players from a technical point of view. I thought Wes Hoolahan is a player who loves to get on the ball and make things happen but it's fair to say the real strength of this Norwich side is the way they play as a team.They are very similar in terms of the concept of coming into the Premier League, enjoying themselves and I think they'll be a strong side for years to come."

There are lessons to be learned for his prediction to be realised. Lambert granted 10 players a Premier League debut, and accusations of naivety could become commonplace. "This league teaches you quickly," Martinez said, believing Norwich's salvation could lie in their spirit. "You can see Paul Lambert has got a special feeling within that group of players."

Both determination and defending in greater depth could be required, though a more cautious approach might entail omitting a second forward. But that player, Steve Morison, set up Hoolahan's equaliser and troubled Wigan with his energetic running. His partnership with Grant Holt was less a case of twin strikers than a target man with another manically orbiting around him. Lambert explained: "He's a threat, a handful, a bit unorthodox but that can work in your favour." It might serve as a description of Norwich, too.

Man of the match Victor Moses (Wigan)

Powered by article was written by Richard Jolly at the DW Stadium, for The Guardian on Sunday 14th August 2011 23.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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