It may be the holiday season, but it’s business as usual at Spurs. Tottenham trained on Christmas day and make the short trip to Norwich on Tuesday, aiming to keep up the pressure at the top. Norwich have made a strong start and are unbeaten in their last three matches. Consecutive promotions have taken Norwich from League One to the top division and they are looking like they belong there. In the top half of the table with 27 goals scored and seven points clear of relegation, Paul Lambert will be very pleased with his side’s start to the season.
Other promoted sides have slipped from such high positions at Christmas to flirt with relegation. Knowing that, Lambert will set out his side to find points where he can, including against Tottenham on Tuesday. It is interesting to note that Norwich have used only 21 players this season. Despite that, Paul Lambert has used 48/51 possible substitutions. He knows his players well; many of them have been with him since they were in League One. He is flexible and able to get the best out of his limited squad.
Norwich have a simple style of football. It’s predictable, but it’s hard to stop. They are aware of their limitations and so tend to sit back and defend until they get their chance. They love to use width (making 23 crosses every week) and they create 10 chances per game. Spurs press the ball when they are out of possession. They make more challenges per game (98 to 87 despite Spurs much higher possession average) and less tackles. Because Tottenham try to close the ball down all over the pitch, they have won the ball nearly twice as often in the final third (54 to 28).
When Norwich are in possession, they’re dangerous. Eight of the 18 goal assists made by Norwich so far this season have come from set pieces. Spurs have also made nearly 50 more shots than Norwich despite playing a game fewer. They have scored the sixth highest number of goals and Grant Holt is in the top ten goal scorers in the league. Grant Holt scores at better than a goal every two games for Norwich. He also has committed more fouls than any other player in the division, despite making only eight starts. His style of play is reminiscent of Kevin Davies at his best. Spurs fans will do well to remember how well Davies usually does against Spurs. The inclusion of Kaboul at centreback could be decisive. The Frenchman is a huge physical presence and more than capable of matching Holt in the air and on the ground.
Spurs make 120 more passes per game than Norwich and complete 11% more. Spurs also run with the ball three times more often and Norwich have been dribbled past 146 times. With Kyle Naughton ineligible against his parent club, the questionable Richie de Laet may deputise at right back. Norwich have made a total of nine defensive errors with de Laet making two in just five appearances. If Gareth Bale is fit, the Welshman will relish running at the Manchester United loanee. Bale created four chances against Chelsea, including the assist for Adebayor’s opener.
Bradley Johnson has been at the heart of the Norwich midfield this season. He makes 35 passes per game at 76% completion. He has also made 29 tackles (80% successful) His three assists and two goals scored demonstrate that he contributes in all areas. Spurs fans may remember his excellent performance for Leeds in the FA Cup two years ago when he helped to force a replay in the fourth round. His partnership with David Fox will be vital. The fitness of van der Vaart was an unexpected Christmas present for Spurs fans. Initial reports of a hamstring tear have been dismissed and the Dutchman will add to the versatility of the Spurs midfield. Their quartet of Modric, Bale, Parker and van der Vaart provide every kind of threat and Fox and Johnson will need to be at their best to stop them.