After a run of 1 win in 11 matches and scoring a pitiful 5 goals during this period, Norwich were precariously sitting above the relegation area by a point. Improved performances had encouraged some, while others saw that good performances couldn’t even pick up much needed points an even worse situation. A shock victory over Tottenham on Sunday however has eased the pressure as the influence of Alex Tettey in midfield becoming more and more evident.
Norwich’s best performances this season have coincided with the inclusion of Alex Tettey playing in the holding role in a midfield 3. The Norfolk club look a different side with Tettey in the starting line-up; allowing other midfielders to venture forward and support the lone striker – the lack of this is one of the reasons Norwich have only scored 20 goals this season – and improving the performances of those around him that have looked out of their depths regularly.
If you ever witnessed the reaction of Tettey after a victory, even when he isn’t playing, or during an interview you’ll know that the Norwegian midfielder is a positive, confident character – and this is evident in his play. Sitting in front of the back four, Tettey is there to break up play and recycle the ball to those with an attacking ability he lacks, so the confidence Tettey possesses oozes throughout the team as they know they can rely on the former Rennes midfielder.
Last season, Tettey’s passing was noted as a problematic area of his game and for a struggling team being unable to keep control of the ball for periods of the game can be costly. The improvement present this season though is pivotal as Norwich have looked like a group playing with unpinned grenade at times this season without him or Howson in the side. A passing accuracy of 83% in his debut season of English football has improved to 88% so far this campaign, with the percentage of passes going sideways shows the intent of keeping the ball rather than playing the ball forward in hope of something coming from it.
Funny enough, this was actually Tettey’s worse passing performance of the season (81%). However his excellent work rate saw him cover so much ground that 4 of the 9 unsuccessful pass saw him outside of his normal positional area, as well as a few passes hit long to allow Norwich to push up lowered his passing accuracy in the dying stages of the match. Before this, his passing in midfield helped Norwich to build attacks and calmly keep possession as he only misplaced one pass in the Norwich half (96%).
Previously conceding goals far too regularly, another game where Norwich prevented their opponent from scoring saw their fourth consecutive clean sheet at home. Again, this can be linked the inclusion of Alex Tettey and the tactical set-up that is present when he plays. Since returning to the side, Norwich have conceded 4 goals in his 4 starts with 2 clean sheets achieved. Over the course of the season, he has started 9 games altogether with the team conceding 12 goals – 7 of which came against Arsenal and Chelsea where Norwich conceded late goals due to committing men forward –alongside 4 clean sheets.
His defensive performance against Tottenham saw Tettey make 4 interceptions, 3 tackles, and a single clearance and block – all which were successful. The extra presence in front of the defence meant less pressure on Bradley Johnson, who can struggle against gifted midfielders dribbling past him due to his lack of pace, and his performance benefited from this. Johnson – the official Premier League’s man of the match – made 4 successful tackles, 3 clearances, an important block 10 yards out, and 1 interception.
If his influence on the side continues and he manages an injury-free second half of the season, then Tettey is the catalyst to Norwich securing Premier League football for the fourth consecutive year.