The game against Sunderland was one of the most encouraging away performances I have seen from Norwich for a while. Obviously, things conspired against the club, but the troops rallied to secure an important point.
There were plenty of contenders for the star performer in this 1-1 draw, but I have decided to go for Elliott Bennett. I know there were some other very good performers from a defensive point of view and Kei Kamara put in an impressive shift upfront, but it was Bennett that really impressed me.
It was a difficult situation for him to step into with Anthony Pilkington out with injury, but he filled in pretty well. I thought at times he looked like our most powerful attacking weapon; he may have thought he was set to be subbed when Chris Hughton had to reshuffle. But he continued to provide that threat throughout the match.
I have always been impressed with the attributes that the player has and certainly think he is the quickest winger that we have at our disposal. And he also tends to play in a way that wingers always used to with his direct play. So often these days, wingers try to be so clever with tricks and everything, but don’t offer the sort of end product that is often required. This is why Bennett is often such a refreshing player to watch.
However, it’s fair to say that he hasn’t hit the heights this season that most fans would have hoped for. But it’s not been that easy for him, given that Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass have been Hughton’s preferred wide options. Nevertheless, fringe players need to be able to influence things whenever they get the opportunity. This is something that Bennett hasn’t done so far, but he now has the opportunity to enjoy a prolonged run in the team.
Of course, there is always the possibility that the Norwich boss will revert to the 4-4-2 system and use Wes Hoolahan in a wide position. But the majority of fans realize that is not the best way to get the best out of the Irishman. Therefore, it seems logical enough to think that the 4-2-3-1 system is the way forward with Bennett and Snodgrass in the wide positions.
The problem may come in if Hughton decides he really needs to use the 4-4-2 system in certain home games this season. If this situation occurs, then it is more than likely that he will have to decide between Hoolahan and Bennett.
I have a lot of time for the former Brighton winger and, given his performance against Sunderland, I would like to see him keep his place for the next few games at least. People will remember that the player did have one wayward free kick, but we won’t hold that against him. The bottom line is he is the obvious man to cover for Pilkington and can hopefully cause Hughton a problem when Pilkington is fit again.