Zak Whitbread glad Norwich City’s Chelsea plan came together
17:40 22 January 2012
Zak Whitbread loved it that the plan came together as Norwich City held Champions league outfit Chelsea on Saturday – and once again proved their ability to adapt could see them secure a second Premier League term.
City boss Paul Lambert changed his formation and starting XI once again, in a bid to keep Chelsea out wide and give them 17-goal strike duo Grant Holt and Steve Morison to deal with at the other end.
And with a hard-earned goalless draw in the bag – along with the much-discussed first clean sheet of the season – Whitbread believes everyone can enjoy the moment.
“They have got quality all over the pitch and you have really got be 100 per cent clued in as a back four and as a unit, and I think from front to back we worked really hard in closing down the space and not letting them play the little through-balls that they-re so good at,” said the City centre-back.
“We got them wide and I think we’ve got the confidence to deal with that when the ball is come in.
“Top teams like that, the place they are going to hurt you is by dissecting you and they have got players like Juan Mata and Frank Lampard who can do that, and Fernando Torres off your shoulder. That’s what they are all about.
“So if we could get them wide then we could take our chances on winning the ball coming in the box, which we did. We worked hard all week on that, so it’s great to get the clean sheet eventually.”
Whitbread added: “We’ve got a very good coaching staff and they have done well to pull together a squad in which there are a lot of options within the 25-man squad. There’s not just a rigid 11, four-four-two that plays every week.
“We try to adapt to different styles of play and the players are there for different systems, so we do work hard and work on bits during the week.
“So the unpredictability is there but I think also the lads have got to go out and play to that system and work hard, and I think today the lads gave everything – it’s and honest bunch.”
Saturday arguably represents City’s toughest point earned so far this season, ran close by the 1-1 draw at Liverpool in October – Whitbread certainly acknowledged the satisfaction.
“Yes it probably is – it’s against Chelesa, to not concede and to get a point is massive against a top, top team,” said the 27-year-old. “There have been other games where we have drawn where we’ve conceded a late goal and it’s been disappointing, but I think today as a unit, as a shape and as a team the plan came together.
“And again we had chances. It wasn’t back against the walls for the whole game. We caught them on the break a couple of times and we were unlucky not to get a couple of little bits there.
“But it’s a very good point. It is the most disciplined (performance) I think, with the banks of four and the lads up front working hard, it paid off.”
And of course, the real monkey off the back – a first Premier League shut out of the season and City’s first clean sheet since the memorable away day at Portsmouth last season.
Whitbread added: “It is nice to get a clean sheet when you’re a defender because people do look at that. The lads were so concentrated on seeing the game out, just getting something and holding the line – we didn’t want to concede so I suppose we were thinking about it at times… in a roundabout way!
“But it hasn’t bothered us all year. Obviously it’s one of those things where people do talk about it but we were just concentrating on getting the results. We’ve picked points up lately but people talk about it, it was a little be it of a nag, but that’s gone. We’ve got one now and hopefully we can build on it by getting a few more.”