Norwich 1 Tottenham 1: Story Of A Match
Norwich took a 1-0 lead into halftime before conceding a late goal to Gareth Bale and Spurs. Today on the blog Matt Wallace from Holtamania dissects last night's matchup.
Let’s be honest, every team needs a win. But one team who needed it more than most are Norwich. After mid-season form which saw them put a cushion between them and relegation, recent defeats have seen confidence tumble. Last night they took on a Spurs side hoping to keep pressure on Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for the Champions League.
The main news for Spurs was the inclusion of Defoe who looked to be missing out due to injury, and he had Dempsey for support. Norwich, meanwhile, were relieved to welcome back former Spurs man Sebastien Bassong at centre back.
The first half of the game was more or less controlled by Norwich. Despite having a few less passes than Spurs, they were getting them into better areas and causing problems. Aside from one smart save from Defoe, Bunn had little to do while Lloris was constantly being forced to claim high balls or make saves.
Norwich went into the game with the opposite approach to which they took to Liverpool. Instead of trying to contain a superior team, they met them head on. They put in a few tough tackles (much to the annoyance of AVB), they got the ball forward, Holt caused Vertonghen all kinds of problems and Snodgrass was all over Assou-Ekotto.
This was because Norwich were overwhelmingly winning the middle of the pitch. Above you can see a map of all the aerial duels, and Norwich won a huge majority in the middle third. They were regularly getting the ball down and then playing it out wide, usually to Snodgrass who was regularly finding space behind the Spurs fullback. While not too many of his crosses were accurate, they were testing Lloris and he was clearly having a bit of difficulty in the high wind, as shown by his unfortunate punch backwards midway through the half.
The battle in midfield was around four players – Johnson and Tettey for Norwich, and Dembele and Dempsey for Spurs. Dempsey has been in decent goalscoring form lately and Dembele is a player that Norwich fans fear, having been turned over by him on the opening day of the season. Yet both players were excellently contained by the high energy, physical game of the Norwich holding pair.
Johnson in particular was winning plenty in the middle while Tettey was more disciplined with the ball than in recent weeks, and resisted the urge to give it away in a bad position. Dempsey saw precious little of the ball, while Dembele found himself constantly harried by Johnson wherever he went. They simply had no time.
Spurs Final Third
When Spurs did get the ball, they struggled to do anything with it. Norwich’s strength through the middle meant Spurs were constantly forced to get the ball wide to the feet of Bale and Lennon. Not a problem, you’d think – two excellent, dangerous wingers. However, neither had much joy in the first half, with Bale getting close attention from Martin and Lennon being double teamed by Garrido and a very hard working Pilkington.
The crosses they put in were poor and easy for Bunn to claim. As you can see by the final third passes, almost every ball into the box was unsuccessful. It was a good strategy from Norwich – force Spurs wide, and double up on their wingers. It was something they did to great effect last season in the 2-1 win at White Hart Lane.
Things began to turn in the second half though, and Spurs grew into the game. It didn’t happen instantly, and Norwich continued to threaten in the opening stages, but once the game went past the hour mark it became more one sided. Tired from all the first half exertion, Norwich retreated to hold onto their lead, trusting in their discipline and shape to keep Spurs out.
Norwich began to have less passes, and more of them were long and hopeful. Spurs continued to have more, but they were in better positions, and were more ambitious. When Norwich forced Tottenham to shoot, though, it was usually around the edge of the box, and there were plenty of yellow shirts in the way. If one nipped through, Bunn was in good form. It was more or less working well for the Canaries.
A lot of the credit for this can go to the Norwich centrebacks, who were dominant. They were helped by playing against just one striker, the diminutive Defoe who wasn’t getting great service, but they were regularly first to high balls, put good challenges in and tried to relieve pressure by finding yellow shirts rather than aiming hoofless clearances. To begin with, anyway.
Spurs really began to pick up steam with the introduction of Holtby. After Dempsey had been pretty ineffective, Holtby came on and showed exactly why they paid a couple of million quid just to bring him over a few months before originally planned. He demonstrated good link up play, a smart football brain in finding open space and playing simple but effective passes into the final third, and he seemed to be the piece Spurs had missed all game. He was doing the job Dempsey had been expected to do.
Bale & Lennon
On top of this, Bale found himself in a more central role. The tactical shift wasn’t huge, but recognising that he wasn’t getting any joy on the left, and that Norwich were tiring and hardly throwing men forward, AVB moved Bale more central and had him attack Norwich from deep. Immediately he began to cause problems.
In the attacking chalkboard above, all four of his successful take-ons, in the middle of the pitch, came second half, as did most of his completed passes and shots. As much as the first half was a famine, the second became a feast and he was able to use his pace to go past the slightly more pedestrian Bradley Johnson.
When the goal came, it wasn’t a great surprise, nor was it a surprise that it came from Bale. Breaking from the first Norwich attack in about 25 minutes, the ball fell to Bale in his own half with most of the pitch ahead of him. He skipped past the tackle of Tettey (when many would have expected a tumble), and with Garrido ahead of him on a yellow card, he attacked his inside channel. It was simple, but devastating, and the goal was deserved for Spurs play in the second half.
The Final Word
All in all a draw was a fair result, and a good one for Norwich. While they will be disappointed to have let the lead slip, they showed a spirit they’ve lacked in recent weeks and it was important to get some result to stop the bleeding.
For Spurs, they can count themselves lucky that Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea all failed to win. They were second best for the first hour or so, but came back admirably and merited the draw. The purchase of Holtby looks smart, but they still look like they need something up front.
To read more of Matt's work, visit his blog Holtamania.com
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