Stepping Up: Norwich City schemer Wes Hoolahan adapts to survive
It’s dog eat dog in the Premier League. Adapt to survive. Wes Hoolahan is doing a mighty fine job of making the step up from the Championship to the top flight with Norwich City – and he’s having to master a new role in the process, as Canaries fan Matt Wallace, who runs the Norwich blog Holtamania, explains.
Wesley ‘Wessi’ Hoolahan has had a rollercoaster of a career with Norwich. Bought from Blackpool, he was initially played on the left before spending time out of the team when Glenn Roeder complained about his fitness. He’s been through relegation and looked to be on the way out, before becoming the key man and best player on the team at the tip of our twice-promoted diamond. Now we’re holding our own in the Premier League, and while the diamond has been ditched, Hoolahan still plays a key role in the team. So how has his game adapted since our promotion?
The key role that Hoolahan played in our promotion sides was as a playmaker. He made things happen, played in strikers, scored goals and more. He was the focal point of our attack because his technique and vision on the ball more than made up for any limitations imposed by chronic dwarfism. Size has always been held against Hoolahan, used as a reason he can’t play as a central midfielder, but at the tip of the diamond it wasn’t an issue. He was creative and relentlessly attacking.
Unfortunately, unless you want to go down swinging like Blackpool, reckless attacking doesn’t fit promoted teams all too well. Norwich are still positive, never settle for draws and try to play good football, but there’s more of a balance to the team and Wes has become part of that. This has meant that the side of his game that has developed most, and is ignored most, is as a reliable, dependable central midfielder. One who can win the ball and then keep it.
After starting (and scoring) in the first game vs Wigan, Hoolahan didn’t feature against Stoke, a match that Norwich were leading 1-0 until the 94th minute. One thing I highlighted in my match report at the time was Norwich’s complete inability to hold onto the ball as time wore on, a self inflicted problem when you leave Hoolahan on the bench. Against WBA, trying to get back into the game, Hoolahan was brought on and demonstrated his ability to win the ball and keep hold of it. In his half an hour, he won 3 tackles, the same as our ‘ball winner’ Andrew Crofts managed in 90 minutes, and more than Andrew Surman in 60, and was excellent in distribution, picking the ball up deep and playing positive passes that tried to get attacks moving.