Norwich City vs. Tottenham Hotspur: 6 Things We Learned
Norwich just about had the better of a largely incident-free first half—lively where Tottenham were lacklustre.
Whatever Tim Sherwood said to his Spurs side at halftime did not work. Within three minutes of the game's resumption they were a goal down.
Nabil Bentaleb was caught in possession by Ricky van Wolfswinkel. The Canaries pounced on a back-pedalling Spurs defence, moving the way out right to find Robert Snodgrass sneaking in behind a clueless Danny Rose.
Snodgrass drifted into the open space, composed himself and curled the ball past Hugo Lloris into the bottom corner.
The introduction of Roberto Soldado briefly lifted Spurs but Norwich continued to pressure and might have added to their lead with several late chances.
The win lifts the Canaries four points clear of the drop zone. Spurs, meanwhile, are now six adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool.
Read on for a few things learned from this Premier League clash.
Lack of Desire and Quality for Spurs Were Bigger Problems Than Fatigue
The old chestnut of a team suffering the aftereffects of having to deal with a league game three days after a European encounter will likely be cited in excusing Tottenham's poor performance vs. Norwich.
There is some merit to the reasoning.
Seven starters also started in the loss to FC Dnipro on Thursday night. One of whom, Etienne Capoue, pulled up with an injury early on. Travelling to and from Ukraine is no quick journey either.
While all this might have informed Spurs' loss to Norwich, to claim it was predominantly behind it would be a disservice to Chris Hughton's determined team.
The Canaries just wanted this one a whole lot more, making their quality count on both ends of the pitch a lot more tellingly.
Those Spurs players who did not feature in the Europa League were a good example of a difference where fatigue cannot be cited.
Emmanuel Adebayor was missing a sharpness crucial to a style that often operates within the smallest of degrees. Mousa Dembele was similarly sluggish, and both should have been as fresh as a pair of daisies having not played in over a week.
Hugo Lloris (typically alert) and Aaron Lennon (Spurs' most eager player) deserve some credit for being ready for this one. Each would be right to feel slightly aggrieved many of their teammates were not so prepared to play.
European competition is a fact of life in the upper echelons of the game's top leagues. Granted, Arsenal did not have to travel this week, but their Champions League loss to reigning holders Bayern Munich will undoubtedly have sapped at their energies.
Yet, there they were on Saturday, putting Sunderland to the sword only three days later. Heck, even Swansea City went to Anfield after their European efforts and almost produced a shock before ultimately being beaten 4-3.
Tiredness is an issue over a long season. But it is only an excuse when sufficient levels of effort have been put forth. That was not the case with Spurs against Norwich.
Van Wolfswinkel Must Continue to Put the Effort in to Help His Team
The healthy applause given Ricky van Wolfswinkel as he departed after a 72-minute shift against Tottenham was well deserved.
He embodied the hard work put in by a Norwich side well aware opportunities to secure vital league points are quickly passing by.
In comparison to the incisive work of Robert Snodgrass or the carefully weighed judgement of Alexander Tettey and Leroy Fer coming up from midfield, van Wolfswinkel's contributions were not as easy on the eye.
On one occasion he blew a particularly good-looking opportunity.
After a long ball deceived Michael Dawson at the halfway line, the striker had the opportunity to run at the isolated centre-back. He hesitated and ended up in a bundle with Jan Vertonghen who had chased back.
The now-19-game wait without a goal will continue to frustrate the Dutchman. Nonetheless, his hassling and willingness to confront the Spurs defence served notice of Norwich's intent. He continued to graft and it paid off in the tackle that led to Snodgrass' winner.
The issue of his lack of goals will almost certainly be considered in the summer. In the meantime van Wolfswinkel must persevere. His team needs him to, and it may be key to him finding true form.
Proactive Lennon Impresses Again but More Quality Is Needed
Aaron Lennon's return to fitness in late autumn proved conducive for Tottenham.
The winger's nous and experience gave his team an outlet that was more composed than the occasionally youthfully impetuous Andros Townsend. Not to mention one quicker and more immediately impactful than other wide-men in the squad.
Recent weeks have seen a more lacklustre Lennon on display, though. There was a marginal improvement against Newcastle United, but his usual urgency seemed lacking.
Against Norwich he was much improved in this regard, particularly in the first half.
Lennon—initially on the left, later out right—showed good initiative coming inside to help continue Spurs' advances. It is a tactic that has proved emblematic of the team's lack of imagination at times this season, but here it worked well as Norwich struggled to keep tabs on him.
Proactive rather than reactive, Lennon is at his best when assuming greater responsibility for Spurs in attack. Should it be sustained, the missing ingredient he must find again is greater quality in the resulting work.
Even accounting for his earlier absence, Lennon's numbers are a little too low. He has never set the world alight here, but even he will agree more needs to be added to the one goal and one assist he has mustered.
In the meantime, like the previously discussed van Wolfswinkel, Lennon must keep at it. His speed and sense of positioning will continue to cause opposition teams problems. A little extra class when there will do wonders again soon enough.
Spurs Need to Start Seeing More from Engimatic Chadli
Nacer Chadli's late goal in the 4-0 win over Newcastle United was an example of the clear quality at the Belgian's disposal.
That it has not been evident too often this season has partly been down to a lack of a game time—he has only started eight Premier League matches.
However, when selected, Chadli has generally struggled to perform above a level that might best be described as adequate.
Against Norwich he put in one such performance.
The 14th-minute substitute for Etienne Capoue steadily maintained possession as he ventured down the left flank. On the few occasions he did well in maneuvering past right-back Russell Martin, his crossing was decidedly unremarkable (finding a player just once out of six attempts, according to Squawka.com).
It led to a corner on a few occasions, but like with Lennon, Spurs needed better to find a way to break down a resolute Norwich back line from these wide angles.
He is still settling in, but Chadli does not look uncomfortable with the pace or physicality of the English game. If he is to truly make the grade, though, he is going need to start producing a little more.
Spurs could certainly do with seeing as much. He appears to have it in him, he just needs to find it.
Predicament of Others Shows Why Norwich Should Stick with Hughton After This Win
Chris Hughton did not need telling twice that Norwich need to get out of their precarious position in the Premier League. Their chief executive David McNally did so anyway this week, and publicly too, speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk—here via BBC Sport—about the manager being told as much in "no uncertain terms."
The win over Tottenham—which has pushed them up to 14th should have alleviated any pressure for the time being. Yet, despite the disquiet at Carrow Road surrounding Norwich's struggles this season, they would be foolish to sack the Irishman.
Staying amid the riches of the Premier League is understandably important to any club. For the Canaries to expect it is arrogant beyond belief.
Their resources are too minimal for them to demand this. Hughton has done solid work, and while they might have been expecting more for their transfer outlay last year, they have to realise others have gone in just as big, if not more so.
You only have to look at the shambolic state of Cardiff City and the underwhelming nature of West Bromwich Albion's play right now to see that solid work is no bad thing. Malky Mackay and Steve Clarke especially were similarly level-headed coaches whose teams had faced challenges, but were not without hope.
Where it has worked down the lower end of the table—at Crystal Palace with Tony Pulis, and Gus Poyet coming in at Sunderland—it has been needed. Ian Holloway commendably admitted the former job was not suited to him, while Paolo Di Canio appeared to be wreaking havoc in the North East.
Yet, even at Fulham where Martin Jol looked to have run out of ideas, the difficulty of finding the right man to take over has arguably cost them a couple of months.
Come the summer Hughton's status might be worth re-evaluating. Right now, Norwich's decision-makers need to show him the same commitment he is showing to managing their club.
Tottenham's Season Will Almost Certainly Be Decided in Daunting March
"It's disappointing because it's three valuable points that you don't want to be throwing away at this stage of the season," Tim Sherwood told Tottenham's official Twitter page, reflecting on his team's loss to Norwich.
Without overlooking Cardiff City next weekend, the value of those lost three points becomes clear when you look at Spurs' following four March opponents: Chelsea (away), Arsenal (home), Southampton (home) and Liverpool (away).
A win in East Anglia would have eased the onus on Spurs to record so many points next month. But having seen the top four all win this weekend, the North Londoners know a good March is necessary for them to stay in contention for a Champions League place.
Cardiff and Southampton are games Spurs will feel confident in winning, while a North London derby—difficult as it is—at White Hart Lane is always enough to raise excitement levels.
Chelsea and Liverpool on the road are daunting to say the least, though.
The Blues at Stamford Bridge are nigh-on impenetrable under Jose Mourinho's watch, while the prospect of facing a goal-crazy Liverpool will not appeal to a Spurs side who have already felt their wrath this season.
Sherwood will be discovering a lot about himself as a manager over the next few weeks. Taking points off these teams will not be easy, but he knows it is necessary if Spurs are to achieve their ambitions this year. And perhaps, for him to keep his job.