Well, the international break is over and Ian Foster is still in charge at Plymouth Argyle. Is that the outcome you were hoping for? I imagine I can guess the majority of answers. It is, however, the reality.

As fans, we have no option now but to support Foster and his side through the run in. Argyle have eight games remaining, with their Championship status well and truly on the line. Two points separate the Greens from the League One trap door, and right now the only certainly is uncertainty. The next few weeks will determine the fate of Argyle, Foster, and every other side in the relegation scrap.

Argyle’s final push to stay up starts with a trip to Norwich City on Good Friday. Not long ago, we’d all be licking our lips at another encounter with the Canaries. It’s been barely six months since Argyle swept Norwich aside, winning 6-2 in possibly their best attacking display since the turn of the century. Just half a year ago in reality, but it may as well be measured in lightyears.

Both sides have changed dramatically since, with Norwich on the brink of a place in the play-offs and Argyle’s failings well covered. What sort of display can we expect from the hosts as the Easter weekend gets underway?

Style of play

David Wagner’s 4-2-3-1 shape has remained fairly consistent throughout the campaign. He deployed the same system in the reverse fixture at Home Park, which may just give us some confidence. Crucially though, the personnel on show will be very different.

Adam Idah, who scored both of Norwich’s goals back in September, isn’t even at the club anymore. He made a loan switch to Celtic on deadline day, but his absence isn’t likely to be felt. That’s because Josh Sargent and Ashley Barnes, who both missed the reverse fixture through injury, are available for selection. Both should start, with Barnes sitting just behind Sargent.

The versatility of Gabriel Sara is a big plus, and gives Wagner some much-needed flexibility. He can play as a deeper midfielder, in a more advanced role, and on the flanks. He’s started from the right for the last two, both of which Norwich won, with Marcelino Nunez and Kenny McLean in the deep midfield roles. However, with Nunez playing 88 minutes (and scoring) for Chile against France on Tuesday, I’d expect Sara to drop deeper. That would leave Borja Sainz and Christian Fassnacht on the flanks, with star youngster Jonathan Rowe still absent.

In defence, ex-Argyle loanee Ben Gibson will start at centre back, and Jack Stacey is a sure-fire starter on the right. I’d expect to see Sam McCallum on the left, with Dimitrios Giannoulis missing out with a hamstring strain. One of Jacob Sorensen and Shane Duffy will partner Gibson at centre back, depending on the match fitness of the latter. They’ll all be ably supported by Angus Gunn, one of the better goalkeepers in the Championship this season with 2.87 goals prevented.

On the ball, Norwich are keen to put crosses into the box. They rank fourth in the league for crosses attempted, fifth for crosses completed, and seventh for cross success. Having both Sargent and Barnes in the area obviously contributes to the success of this style. Incidentally, these numbers are totally at odds with Argyle’s, who rank 24th in the Championship for each of the metrics mentioned.

Norwich also look to utilise through balls, as well as balls over the top of the defence, in an attempt to get in behind. This doesn’t always succeed, with only two teams being caught offside this season more often than the Canaries, but it demonstrates how they look to beat the defensive line with regularity. Interestingly, this is one of the few areas where I’m less concerned under Foster than I would be under Steven Schumacher, with Schumacher’s defence dealing with through balls like butter when it encounters a hot knife.

Off the ball, Norwich deploy a fairly active press, again at odds with Argyle’s preferred style of play. Wagner’s side rank seventh for their number of tackles, and sixth for the number of occasions they’re dribbled past. That’s another indication that, whilst it won’t always succeed, Norwich are committed to their style of play and will always look to put their opponents under pressure. Particularly at home.

That style of press makes Norwich strikingly like Argyle’s previous opponents Preston North End. Foster will hope that a similar style doesn’t lead to a similar outcome.


Gabriel Sara. He’s excellent.

The 24-year-old, who joined directly from Brazilian side Sao Paulo in 2022, is the man who makes Norwich tick in attack. I’ve already mentioned his versatility, with his ability to play in a variety of midfield roles allowing Wagner to tinker with his side whilst still maintaining the key principles of the 4-2-3-1 shape. But that’s just one string to Sara’s increasingly impressive bow.

His goal contributions are an easy place to start. His total of 21 for this season, consisting of ten goals and 11 assists, comfortably leads Norwich’s ranks. It also places him highly in the league as a whole, with only six players registering more goal contributions. Some of Sara’s goals have been screamers too, with his strike against Rotherham United earlier this month just one example.


For me, goalscoring isn’t even the best part of his game. Creatively, you’d do well to find many better.

Sara’s assists total this season is already excellent, with only three players (one each from the top three teams in the league) having registered more. Add in Sara’s number of key passes (94) and big chances created (14), both of which feature in the league’s top ten, and a picture starts to emerge of a creative genius. I mentioned Norwich’s crossing stats earlier; Sara is usually the man playing a telling ball into the area. Norwich have also scored the second-highest number of goals from set piece situations this season, and Sara’s delivery is a huge factor.

Sargent is a major beneficiary of this, and is another key strength in Norwich’s side. I think there is an argument that he is the best goal poacher in the league, albeit not without competition.

Having missed much of the season through injury, his tally of 13 goals is already exemplary. It becomes even better when we consider goals per 90 minutes. Sargent has 0.99 goals per 90 this season, the highest figure of any player in the Championship to have made more than two starts. And it’s not as if he’s constantly in games – of the players to have scored as many goals as Sargent this season, only Jamie Vardy has fewer touches per 90, and nobody has attempted fewer passes per 90. Clearly, Sargent’s strengths lie in the opposition penalty area.

Interestingly, Sargent also ranks highly for big chances missed. It’s possibly the main argument against him being the best poacher in the division. His total of ten this season is just outside the top ten in the league, and once again everyone who has missed more big chances than Sargent has played more minutes.

That can be taken in two ways. You could either use this as a demonstration of a major weakness in Sargent’s game, or you could consider that the number of big chances he gets is an indication of the threat he carries. Given his goalscoring numbers, I fall into the latter camp, and would be pleasantly surprised if Argyle prevent Sargent from getting a big chance on Friday.

Away from the individuals, I’ve been struck bt Norwich’s commitment to the cause. There is clearly no lack of fight in Wagner’s side, which can be demonstrated using a few metrics.

The points they’ve gained from losing positions is notable, and points to a strong mentality across the team. Norwich have taken 19 points after falling behind this season, with only two teams winning more from such situations. East Anglia rivals Ipswich Town may be the kings of picking up points from losing positions with 28, but Norwich aren’t too far behind.

We must also consider their defending. Norwich have blocked the second-highest number of shots in the league, with their total of 160 second only to Argyle themselves (193). Remember though, Argyle have had more defending to do than Norwich, and you’d expect them to have blocked more shots given the number they’ve faced. Norwich’s total displays excellent commitment to last-ditch defending, which can also be shown by their number of goal-line clearances (7), with only three sides in the league having made more.

Norwich will be fighting tooth and nail for the points, particularly given what happened at Home Park.


How do you get at Norwich? There’s an obvious place to start. And yes, it’s the game they lost 6-2 earlier in the season. I accept that both sides have changed significantly in the months since, but I still believe there are vulnerabilities we can draw out for Argyle to exploit.

The most obvious example is counter attacks. In putting six past the Canaries, Argyle launched a staggering eight counter attacks across the match, taking five shots and scoring three goals from such situations. First, Finn Azaz scored from a quick break on the stroke of half time…


Then, Argyle broke forward at pace to set up Morgan Whittaker’s hat-trick goal…


And deep into added time, Argyle turned over possession in their own penalty area before setting up Luke Cundle to score the sixth.


Those numbers are genuinely jaw-dropping. To put Argyle’s eight counter attacks in that fixture into perspective, some teams in the division have posted similar figures for the entire season to date. Four teams in the league haven’t scored a single goal from a counter attack across the season – Argyle scored three in that one game alone. And promisingly, this is a trend that has continued under Foster.

As we mentioned in the latest episode of the Green and White Stats podcast, Argyle top the league when it comes to fast breaks since Foster’s first game in charge. Similar figures to the 6-2 game have been posted, with five counter attacks against Coventry City and six against Middlesbrough. That extends a season-long record – no team in the Championship has launched more counter attacks, or scored more goals from counter attacks, than Argyle. Given how well it worked last time, you can be sure fast breaks will be a key part of Foster’s game plan.

Away from the counter, I’m encouraged by the fact that Norwich are never too far away from an error leading to a goal. Again, this is something we saw in the reverse fixture, with Duffy’s error directly leading to Whittaker scoring Argyle’s third goal of the afternoon.


It’s a theme that has followed Norwich around for much of the campaign. Their total of six mistakes leading to goals is the second-highest figure in the league, with only Millwall (eight) making more. And it’s not as anyone in particular is responsible; those six errors are spread across five different players, with only Stacey making more than one. Given it happens regularly, we’ve seen it against Argyle before, and so many players have the potential to be culpable, who’s to say the same won’t happen on Friday?

Scoring against Norwich, let alone winning, will be tough. Argyle will have to play on the scars they’ve left in the past, and hope that will be enough to put some doubts into the back of Norwich’s minds. If they can, who knows?


I must admit to going into the game without much confidence. Norwich have lost just four times at home in the league this season, and are on an 11-game unbeaten streak at Carrow Road. Argyle’s run of form? The opposite.

I’ve seen enough evidence to suggest that Argyle can hurt their hosts, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Greens nick a goal on the break. But at the other end, the Canaries will surely be far too strong. 3-1 to Norwich.