Tottenham Hotspur will go into their away game against Norwich eager to continue their fine run of form and take three points, especially with rivals Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all dropping points on Boxing Day. Norwich may prove tough to break down, having only lost twice at home this season. The goals for/against is similar for the two teams. Norwich have scored 16 and conceded 12 at home, Spurs have scored 15, conceded 11 away. In Paul Lambert, Norwich have an acknowledged tactician who organizes his teams well and who work hard – Norwich have covered 1231 miles this season, second only to Newcastle United. Maybe this works against them when tiring, as seven of their goals conceded at home have come in the final half hour.
In recent matches without Aaron Lennon on the right wing, Spurs have appeared unbalanced. Due to injuries, Spurs may start in a 4-4-2 with both Emmanuel Adebayor and Roman Pavlyuchenko up front, and Luka Modric playing out wide. Arguably this is the biggest decision Redknapp has to make. The Croatian in the centre has been essential to controlling Spurs rhythm and this has perhaps faltered when moved to the periphery. In the centre, linking in particular with Gareth Bale on the left, Spurs should control possession [Norwich average 46% at home]. This may be crucial, especially with the Canaries’ regular right-back Kyle Naughton ineligible, as Norwich have conceded a number of their goals at Carrow Road from the left following build up through centre midfield.
On their right, Spurs may wish to push the industrious Mark Tierney and Anthony Pilkington/Andrew Surman back. This should disrupt some of the supply line to the Norwich forwards. The right area again may be a crucial selection. Many fans may wish to see either Andros Townsend, cutting in, or Niko Kranjcar. Kranjcar may not have the pace of some, but his positional discipline and skill should, in tandem with Kyle Walker, keep the Norwich left quieter whilst threatening in attack themselves. Meanwhile, Grant Holt might expect a rare start alongside Steve Morison, with both dangerous in the air, and this statistically is one of Spurs’ defensive weaker points, especially if Younes Kaboul is missing.
At home, Norwich have had only 28% of their possession in the opponents final third. This is partly due to the number of crosses, but partly due to the number of shots taken from outside the box, averaging nearly 60% of their total of 112 shots. Of these 112, 27% have been blocked. This would suggest Norwich may be slow to get shots off, but also to the importance of a defensive midfielder for Spurs. With Scott Parker perhaps tiring in recent matches, there may be an argument for the impressive Sandro starting alongside Modric in the centre.
The key for a Spurs victory may well be the formation manager Harry Redknapp selects, and the positional selection for his best players. Whilst some, like Modric, are talented enough to play out of position, the overall effect is to disrupt the Spurs’ fluidity and pace that has been the foundation for their excellent run.
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