After a poor start to the season, Norwich had worked their way up to 8th place in the League by December, only four points behind Tottenham but now the points difference has increased to 15.
This is Norwich’s second season back in the Premier League since 2004 – 05, a one season sojourn before returning to the Championship. In their time out of top flight football Norwich slipped into League One but Paul Lambert masterminded successive promotions, returning to the Premier League as runners-up to champions Queen’s Park Rangers in May, 2011. Norwich impressed last season to finish 12th, level on 47 points with Swansea and West Brom. In the summer, Lambert went off to Aston Villa and former Tottenham player, coach, assistant manager and caretaker manager, Chris Hughton was appointed.
Norwich had the worst possible start to the season under Hughton, losing 5 – 0 in their opening game at Fulham. They signed Sebastien Bassong from Spurs and took a point at home to QPR in the next match before arriving at White Hart Lane. Norwich played the better football that day against a lacklustre Spurs team. Mousa Dembele made his Tottenham debut as a half-time substitute and scored Spurs’ goal. Norwich remained competitive and equalised in the final minutes for a well-deserved draw. Results continued to be poor through September into October with a 5 – 2 defeat at home to Liverpool followed by a 4 – 1 loss at Stamford Bridge. Their first win of the season was at home to Arsenal (1 – 0) which proved to be the start of a ten game unbeaten run which included a 1 – 0 home win against Manchester United. It also included the Capital Cup win over Spurs but came to a dramatic and unexpected end with a 4 – 1 home defeat to Aston Villa in the next round of the Cup. They recovered to beat Wigan but have struggled since.
Norwich have been involved in some high scoring matches this season. They have conceded five goals on three occasions – at Fulham, at home to Liverpool and at Anfield. They have also played in three matches with seven goals – the 2 – 5 home defeat to Liverpool, and two 4 – 3 results, one favourable, at Swansea, and one not, a home defeat to Manchester City. Norwich’s leading goalscorer in Snodgrass who scored the equaliser at White Hart Lane. He has 5 goals while last season’s top scorer, Graham Holt has four as has Pilkington who scored against Spurs last season.
Tottenham play Norwich for the second time this season, almost immediately after conceding five goals in a game. Norwich have shown that they can regroup after disappointing matches to work hard and get a result as they did at White Hart Lane and at home to Arsenal in the aftermath of poor results. Tottenham will have to ensure they don’t give them any early encouragement to allow them to build their confidence and composure. It was a lack of ruthlessnes on Tottenham’s part in the Cup match which provided Norwich with the opportunity for a late comeback.
Having made changes to his team for Sunday’s Cup tie, Andre villas-Boas will revert to the team which has served him well in recent weeks. Hugo Lloris will return in goal while Kyle Walker and Michael Dawson will be restored to the back four which was very uncertain and uncomfortable under Leeds’ pressure. Jan Vertonghen will partner Dawson but he will need to show greater strength if faced with the competitive Grant Holt. The midfield four will be the usual quartet of Aaron Lennon, Scott Parker, Mousa Dembele and Bale.
Two interesting questions now arise over the final two spots in the team. Will Jermain Defoe be fit and will new signing, Lewis Holtby, get an opportunity to make his Tottenham debut?
If Defoe is fit he will start and I would expect Clint Dempsey to start in the supporting role. Holtby who it was initially thought would not be available until next week has been included in the squad but is unlikely to start, having only signed on Monday from FC Schalke and having his first training session with Spurs yesterday. He may get on from the substitutes bench as the match progresses.
No result is ever guaranteed in the Premier League – take bottom club Queen’s Park Rangers as an example, getting five points from Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester City without conceding a goal against the three teams in 2nd to 4th places in the league. Tottenham, however, and their supporters will regard any result other than a win at Carrow Road as disappointing. Tottenham are undefeated in the Premier League at Norwich and will want to continue their run of four successive League wins at Carrow Road to maintain their fourth place in the table.