All good things must come to an end
And so Norwich City's run of ten games unbeaten in the Premier League – a sequence bettered only by Barcelona in the whole of Europe – has come to an end at the hands of West Brom. Taking nothing away from the Baggies, but City captain Grant Holt's absence was felt by all in yellow and green at the Hawthorns.
December 27th, 2012
Steve Morison – a player who has been unfairly treated by some City fans for several months now – had to fill the skipper’s boots, and his performance did little to prove his doubters wrong. The ‘lazy’ tag attached to him by some is inaccurate – running around harassing defenders isn’t his game (nor is it Dimitar Berbatov’s and he’s not a bad striker) but sadly neither is Chris Hughton’s preferred formation of one lone striker with Wes Hoolahan in support.
Holt fills this role perfectly – able to hold the ball up and bring others into the game. Morison was the better of the two strikers when paired with Holt in the Capital One Cup defeat to Aston Villa but, sadly for the Welsh international, 4-4-2 is not a formation that works for Hughton’s Norwich City.
Morison on his own isn’t to blame for the run coming to an end, nor is goalkeeper Mark Bunn who was singled out for some criticism over West Brom’s equaliser just before half-time. John Ruddy has been in exceptional form between the sticks for the Canaries this season and his knee injury – keeping him out until late March at the earliest – is a huge blow. When Bunn was signed for a reported £1m from Blackburn in the summer as Ruddy’s back-up, many questioned why Hughton had spent money on a reserve goalkeeper when he had England youth internationals Declan Rudd and Jed Steer waiting in the wings. Well, now we have the answer – to throw in either youngster for the majority of a Premier League season was too big a risk and an experienced replacement in Bunn was vital.
Being six feet tall isn’t huge for a goalkeeper but there is nothing Bunn can do about his height. West Brom exploited his lack of physical presence when he was backed into and unable to tip the ball over the bar in the lead-up to the Baggies’ equaliser. Rival managers will have picked up on this, so expect to see lots of crosses fired into the City penalty area with Bunn having a striker for company.
One of many bright spots in Norwich City’s recent fantastic run is Robert Snodgrass – the winger does his fair share of tracking back and helping out the defence but his free-kicks have earned several points for the Canaries. With three goals from free-kicks in the last six games, Snodgrass has added another weapon to City’s arsenal – the Canaries are joint top goalscorers from direct free-kicks along with Chelsea.
To hit the halfway stage with 25 points is some achievement, especially given the awful start. If 40 points is to be the magic safety mark that’s only five more wins required. Norwich City fans should be looking up the table, not worrying about those at the bottom.