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How Liam Manning’s dominant Bristol City smothered Norwich City in 1-1 Championship draw at Carrow Road

Bristol City extended their unbeaten run to six games as they exerted dominance on their Norfolk opponents in a performance which portrayed a perfectly-executed plan.

Liam Manning’s side produced a fine display against Norwich City who continue their push for playoff promotion.

If not for wasted chances and a couple of debatable offside calls, the Robins could easily have come away from Carrow Road with more than just a single point.

“I thought there were a huge number of positives to come from the performance,” said Manning after the game.

“Probably the most pleasing thing in the progress with the ball, at a difficult place to come, with their record here as well and how they’re performing and take the game to them a bit with the ball and the way we switched it.”

Saturday’s match saw a return to the side for Rob Dickie, restoring some much-needed stability and familiarity to the back three in which he had two usual full-backs, George Tanner and Haydon Roberts, either side of him.

Last week saw a first for Tanner as he had to be the central man in a back three which was made up of a trio of full-backs during their late draw with Huddersfield Town.

Natural centre back Dickie saw the most of the ball of any player on the pitch with 111 touches and kept an impressive pass success rate of 91% (80/88 completed), second only to the Canaries’ Ben Gibson.

Statistics for the five players with the most touches (courtesy of SofaScore)

Dickie also picked up the most defensive actions of the two teams with 16.

The towering defender epitomised the way Manning’s side want to build up from the back and block when on and off the ball.

He was not perfect in his first game back after a few weeks out however, as Norwich found a way through the back three for their equaliser and had to get up to back up to the speed of the game in the first half as he handled one of the league’s best strikers in Josh Sargent.

City’s average positions show their structured rest defence when on the ball, with the physical full-backs able to push on, particularly Ross McCrorie who always looks to venture forward when he receives the ball.

Bristol City’s average positions vs Norwich City – Saturday, April 20, 2024 (courtesy of SofaScore)

The visualisation also conveys the Robins’ high press which was crucial in turning the ball over in high areas, something that Manning values highly and is a key aspect of his style of play this season since taking over last October.

“We’ve spoken about phases of the game, being clear on your role and consistently delivering,” Manning revealed.

“Then I thought, first half especially, there were some moments where we really pressed, regained it high, had to block well – they’re a good side, pushing six high, so they caused us problems at times – but probably the most pleasing thing was the progress with the ball.”

The Reds were able to create numerous chances from their high press, producing a key chance from Scott Twine in the first half.

In this action, City pressed from the left, blocking off all avenues down Norwich’s right-hand side and forcing Angus Gunn to go long down the compact near side of the pitch.

All screen grabs courtesy of ‘Norwich City Football Club’ YouTube channel

Jason Knight was able to win the header down that in which the Robins had were covering the zones in which the ball may fall in the spaces between the lines.

McCrorie latched onto the loose ball from the header…

…and City worked it quickly to Twine in space on the other side whose shot was saved by Gunn, who Canaries’ manager David Wagner called the “best goalkeeper in the Championship.”

The Robins’ high turnover success came to fruition with the opening goal, where Joe Williams pounced on the ball, which was briefly won by Borja Sainz, before threading through Tommy Conway who cut it back for Roberts to sweep home.

An effective day at the office, then, for Manning’s Reds team, but one which could easily have been a well-earned victory if it weren’t for missed opportunities from the likes of Twine and Mark Sykes, who squandered a huge chance in acres of space.

The Robins ended the day having missed three ‘big chances,’ something that their 38-year-old boss will be keen to rectify going into the final two games of the season against Rotherham at Ashton Gate and away to Stoke City.

A final disallowed goal late on from a questionable offside call was the last disappointment on an unlucky afternoon in the east of England.

City remain slap bang in the middle of the pack in the Championship table in 12th, whereas Norwich will be disappointed not to perform better and pick up a win in order to pick up momentum going into what will most likely be a playoff campaign to end the season.

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