Norwich City vs. Tottenham Hotspur: 5 Things We Learned

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2013

Norwich City vs. Tottenham Hotspur: 5 Things We Learned

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    Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur's shock FA Cup exits to lower-league teams last weekend left both keen to bounce back in the best way possible in their Wednesday night clash.

    On a blustery night at Carrow Road, the 1-1 draw they played out ensured such a scenario did not occur for either.

    In spite of neither team getting the three points they wanted, both clubs can take something from their meeting.

    Although the match highlighted some areas that need addressing, there were also positives for each side to look back on.

Lewis Holtby Is a Breath of Fresh Air for Tottenham

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    In this game alone, the second-half introduction of new signing Lewis Holtby was a timely one for Tottenham. His arrival might just prove to be the breath of fresh air they need to reinvigorate their promising season.

    The German's keenness to get involved and all-around energy lifted a previously prosaic Spurs against Norwich.

    Movement-wise, Holtby was superb, popping up all over the pitch to offer himself up to receive a pass or make a tackle. Such was his enthusiasm, he was booked for questioning the referee's (wrong) decision to penalize him for a foul.

    Holtby made a telling contribution, too, dropping off into his team's half and cleverly flicking the ball under pressure to Jermain Defoe, who proceeded to lay the ball off for Gareth Bale to score his excellent equalizer.

    It is early days for the 22-year-old, but the signs were there in this debut performance. He could give Tottenham a versatility that has been lacking in their midfield play to a certain degree.

    Mousa Dembele is a good all-rounder but has defensive responsibilities, while Clint Dempsey's abilities are best utilized in a more advanced position.

    Holtby can operate somewhere between those two styles, and in doing so, might be Spurs' missing link in opening up the more stubborn opposition that have stifled them too often.

Spurs Need to (Re)develop Understanding and Familiarity Between the Lines

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    For reasons forced and otherwise, there have been plenty of changes in the makeup of Tottenham's defense and midfield in recent weeks.

    As such, this has meant a certain unfamiliarity between the lines, one that was exposed by Norwich for their goal.

    Benoit Assou-Ekotto was caught up-field, leaving space for Robert Snodgrass to run down the right with Scott Parker giving chase, as he attempted to cover for his full-back. Snodgrass crossed to the far post, where Grant Holt and Anthony Pilkington combined to tee up Wes Hoolahan to score.

    With Parker covering down the flank, it left the remaining Spurs defenders in the penalty box exposed. Nobody else came back from midfield to contest the second ball when it found its way to Hoolahan.

    It was a well-worked goal by Norwich, but the Tottenham players will have cursed themselves for getting into the situation to begin with.

    In fairness, there were improvements made over the course of the game. Dembele was one of those who did not get back when Spurs conceded, but later in the first half he made a goal-denying challenge.

    The Belgian and his teammates now have to work on reestablishing an understanding of their respective roles and how they affect one another.

    Given the return of Parker and Assou-Ekotto to the team, it is not surprising there have been a few issues. Compared to the last time they both played, there are new faces in the team. It is going to take a little time for everyone to get used to each other.

Norwich Can Compete with Anyone (Except Liverpool)

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    Other than against Liverpool (who seem to have become their bogey team), Norwich have given all of the Premier League's Champions League-chasing teams a run for their money this season.

    This has been especially the case at Carrow Road, where Chris Hughton's men have beaten Arsenal and Manchester United, and made Chelsea and Manchester City work extremely hard for their three points.

    Wednesday's draw with Tottenham was the latest example of just how effective a unit the Canaries can be when they match defensive organization with a desire to get forward whenever they can. The division's better teams have not had it easy whatsoever in these games.

    It is all the more baffling that Norwich have not been able to take this mentality into matches against teams one would think they are capable of beating. At least not lately.

    The East Anglian club can take heart from the Spurs display, though. It was probably their best performance in a month, and a timely reminder of how good they can be when they get things right.

Alternatives to Holt and Defoe Are Needed for Norwich and Spurs, Respectively

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    Wednesday's match did serve as a reminder of the importance of Norwich signing another striker before the transfer deadline closes.

    Grant Holt put in a good evening's work, with his desire to keep the ball in play leading to his team's goal. However, as the match wore on, Tottenham grew more comfortable in their dealings with the target man.

    In these situations, Norwich could desperately do with an alternative to the powerful but somewhat limited Holt. Not only for what someone else might provide directly in terms of goals, but also how a different style might open up different avenues for the considerable creative talent at the club.

    With this in mind, as of late on Wednesday night Norwich are said to have put in a third bid for Celtic's Gary Hooper (reported by BBC Sport) while a deal for Leeds United's Luciano Becchio is close to completion (according to the Daily Mail).

    Tottenham have a bit more variation to their attack, but they will almost certainly be considering their options prior to the closing of the transfer window.

    Jermain Defoe worked hard against Norwich and set up Gareth Bale for Spurs' equalizer. However, goals have undeniably escaped the England international of late.

    As they are also contending with fitness issues, there is a burden on Defoe to deliver goals for Tottenham as the club's lone striker. Should the club find a suitable striker to help relieve that pressure, perhaps someone who could even work well with Defoe, it might end up proving less costly to sign him, rather than risk going without bringing in the extra body.

Villas-Boas Might Need to Rest Bale Soon

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    Coming off the back of one of Gareth Bale's finest goals for Tottenham (and there have been some beauties), the notion that Andre Villas-Boas should rest him might seem preposterous.

    With all due respect to West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, who Spurs play in their next two games, they cannot afford to lose the Welshman for the vitally important fixtures that follow.

    The North Londoners face almost all of their rivals for Champions League places in the space of two months, with Arsenal and Liverpool first up.

    As important as Bale is to Tottenham in any match, the next few weeks are going to be the last chance Villas-Boas has to give him a break before things really get serious for at the end of the season.

    Bale's terrific goal against Norwich underlined once more his ability to be a game-changer for Tottenham. If they were to lose that option for a few weeks due to a niggling little injury that might otherwise have been avoided, it would be a potentially costly blow to their hopes for the season.

    Villas-Boas has to weigh the pros and cons here. The Spurs boss and Bale himself will know better than anyone what his body can or cannot take. It may be the case that he is young enough to get through all this without a hitch, but it is something they have to consider.