By Jamie Allison
Until last summer, Norwich City had struggled to find a winger to replace Darren Huckerby – a player who could terrorise full backs and produce a piece of magic to win games.
There had been Anthony McNamee and the more forgettable Simon Whaley came in, but neither excelled. There were also others like Paul McVeigh, Simon Lappin and even Luke Daley who did a job for a brief period; but although they had their own strengths, none of these was to beat players and produce a bit of quality in the final third consistently.
Thankfully, though, we managed to obtain two of the Football League’s most promising wingers in Anthony Pilkington and Elliott Bennett.
Anthony Pilkington arguably had the better season out of the two and was one of the top performers at the club. He managed to score eight goals in the league from the wing last season, which for a team whose main focus is survival is appreciated. ‘Pilks’ also has the favour of being gifted with both feet, something some modern day footballers surprisingly aren’t, giving him that unpredictability that helps beat the full back time and time again.
Elliott Bennett on the other hand took a few months to settle at a higher level, but it was still evident that he would become a quality Premier League player. The pace that Bennett has will always be a threat no matter what league he is in while the covering that he offers his full back has always impressed me – similar to the role that Antonio Valencia plays for Manchester United. The turning point was his winner against Tottenham in April, and since then the former Brighton winger hasn’t looked back.
This season, unfortunately, Pilkington has not reproduced the same performances as frequently. During some games, he has disappeared and offered nothing to the team – something important to a side that is built on team work ethic. This was highlighted against Reading (10 November 2012), After 60 minutes it was clear that Pilkington was struggling, with passes being misplaced and offering nothing when a teammate was on the ball.
Bennett’s injury on the opening day of the season didn’t help his cause as Snodgrass and Pilkington claimed their spots in the first XI, but his form since coming back has been decent. While there is a danger of changing a winning team, sometimes it can keep the team focused and fresh with the players aware of the threat of being replaced.
In recent games City have lacked pace going forward, especially away from home when playing more cautiously – something that Bennett is very suited to. No doubt in the next few games against strong opposition this will be important if Norwich want to get anything from the game.
Pilkington is a quality player and Norwich will do well if we manage to keep him at the club in years to come, but on current form, Elliott Bennett definitely should have his place in the first XI.
However, after his winning goal against Manchester United would it harsh for Anthony Pilkington to be dropped? Give us your thoughts on this issue.