Norwich City and Southampton have had solid enough seasons, but neither club is absolutely safe from the relegation zone. Therefore, Saturday’s game was an opportunity for one of the teams to get another win towards that magical 40-point mark.
But we know that Premier League wins are hard to secure, and in the end neither side was able to do enough to win the game as it ended 0-0. In traditional fashion, I will look back at some things learned from the game from a Norwich City perspective.
I think we saw today that Kei Kamara still has a lot to learn until he will be a reliable Premier League striker. Up to now, Norwich City fans have only seen him for short bursts, and in that role he has proved to be effective.
However, against Southampton he started a game for the first time. And it would be fair to conclude that he had his moments, but he also showed that he hasn’t yet developed positional awareness. This is something that shows why the signing was such a gamble.
But this will hopefully come as he plays more games and gets used to the pace of the English top flight. It’s also fair to say that he was tired towards the end of his spell today. Chris Hughton has a difficult decision to make on how he wishes to use him over the course of the next few weeks.
Hughton made the difficult decision of picking Anthony Pilkington in a 4-4-2 ahead of Wes Hoolahan in a different system. His thinking seemed logical enough in order to get his Norwich City team scoring goals. But losing his winger in the first half to injury would not have been something he would have anticipated.
He decided that the best course of action was to deploy Hoolahan in a role we know doesn’t suit him. The other option would have been to introduce Elliott Bennett in a move that would have been considered more natural. I can only conclude that his reason for going with the former rather than latter was of issue of which player was higher up the pecking order.
It’s no real surprise that Norwich’s lack of creativity was combined with a team that struggled to find a yellow shirt on a consistent basis. It’s an obvious point, but there wasn’t a player on the pitch that would be considered a great passer of the ball.
Interestingly though, there is one on the bench in the shape of David Fox. This is certainly a long-standing issue and it’s obvious Hughton doesn’t fancy the player. What is less clear is the reason for this, given he hasn’t been granted the opportunity to start a Premier League match.
Of course, some may argue that he hasn’t excelled in the handful of cup appearances that he has been given. But the same could be said of other players in the squad that have been given a league opportunity.
Alex Tettey is out injured at the moment, and Jonny Howson is playing in a position that he isn’t really suited to. Furthermore, the Canaries are a matter of a few points away from Premier League safety and have games against some of the less capable top-flight teams to come.
It is looking increasingly likely that Fox will be off to pastures new in the summer, but before the inevitable happens it would be nice to think he will get some kind of chance. If he plays a few games, and Hughton’s judgement is correct and we find he isn’t up to it, then fair enough at least then we will know.
Nevertheless, he was good enough last season and I can’t believe he wouldn’t have some kind of positive influence in the passing abilities of the team. However, whatever the future holds for Fox, it’s obvious we need a bit more variety in the midfield. Johnson and Tettey certainly fill the need for defensive protectors, but we lack midfielders that look capable of scoring regularly or can pass the ball efficiently.
Of course, we are all disappointed having had our hopes raised with an injury-time penalty. The first spot kick that we have been awarded in the league this season was not in the end decisive. However, on the balance of play we certainly did not deserve all three points.
The performance level was similar to other home matches against Fulham, Newcastle and even Everton before Kamara’s cameo. The statistics will tell us that Southampton were the much more creative side and can perhaps be aggrieved about failing to win the match.
But playing well is not all about attacking invention, there is also something that is called defending well. Southampton certainly had chances on the day, but Michael Turner and Sebastien Bassong were both solid with Mark Bunn producing several quality stops. It’s another clean sheet and another point towards Premier League survival. This is something that Norwich achieved despite being second best on the day.
It would have been nice to have found a winner, but at worst it was missed opportunity. Nevertheless, Hughton will be painfully aware that the onus is on the teams below Norwich to drag them back into it. The Canaries have games against Sunderland, Wigan and Reading to come, and those sides will be looking for a win. But Norwich really only have to hold their nerve and not let them open the door.