Last weekend’s game against Fulham represented a real six pointer for the Canaries. In a relatively close game Norwich certainly had the better chances with both van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer forcing David Stockdale into two excellent saves, whilst the crossbar helped keep out a dangerous free kick from Robert Snodgrass. Even after Hugo Rodallega’s strike late in the first half Norwich still looked on for a comeback. Yet, it was Fulham who eventually prevailed after a period of some real last ditch defending leaving Norwich without a goal now in their last three matches.
After the game new manager Neil Adams could not fault the effort of his Norwich players emphasising the first class fighting spirit they displayed throughout the game. Nevertheless, the question still remains that if the Canaries cannot pick up any points in a relegation six pointer how can they hope to gain any from their last four games against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal?
Evidently, the Canaries aren’t going to be favourites in any of their remaining games, least of all against current league leaders Liverpool. After the rousing scenes at the end of the Red’s 3-2 victory against Manchester City few sides would relish the prospect of playing a buoyant Gerrard and co. Suarez in particular will look forward to this fixture having put four beyond the reach John Ruddy when the two sides met in the league back in December. The Uruguayan has now scored 11 goals in his last five games against the Canaries and will seek to lay further damage to the survival hopes of Neil Adams’s Norwich side. Whilst Norwich will be in front of their home crowd at Carrow Road they will feel that they need more than 12 men to beat a Liverpool side looking to extend their winning streak to a record 11 games as they close in on their first league title in 24 years.
When the fixture list came out back in June Norwich would have no doubt been dreading a trip to Old Trafford at this pivotal time of the season. As it is this fixture could present Norwich with a half decent chance of picking up some vital points. United’s poor home form has been well documented this season, as has their frequently unsteady defensive showings. The Canaries will look to take advantage of this as much as possible as they seek to avenge a 4-0 defeat inflicted on them in the League Cup at Old Trafford back in October.
Jose Mourinho may well still be conceding that Chelsea’s title hopes are over yet Manchester City’s latest 1-1 draw with Sunderland has thrown Chelsea right back in the mix. Add to this the fact that City have still got to go away to Everton and people will start believing Chelsea really can regain their first Premier League title since 2010; everyone except Jose that is. This again highlights the fact that the Canaries will have to produce something extra special to beat Mourinho’s men. Chelsea currently have the best defensive record in the league, conceding only 24 goals, and for a Norwich side who have only scored 26 goals all season and failed to find the net against Fulham, the omens do not look promising.
The Canaries final game of the season comes against Arsenal and presents their best chance of picking up points. Whilst evidently subject to change, Arsenal’s current away form is poor having only picked up three points from their last five away games. Norwich’s home form in comparison presents positive reading for the Neil Adams and his men with eight points picked up from the same number of games. Form guide aside, with a must win FA Cup final the following weekend Arsene Wenger is likely to rest some of his key players. Norwich will hope that Arsenal’s trip to Carrow Road will be a mere sideshow to the main event for the Gunners in turn helping Norwich’s chances of picking up some vital points on the final day of the season.
Overall, Neil Adams does not have a bad squad at his disposal. Norwich have a real team ethic with a group of players capable of banding together to produce solid performances. Yet, the problem for Norwich remains to be their lack of killer instinct in front of goal, and as the old saying goes ‘goals win you games’. The bookmakers are not favouring Norwich’s chances either with SkyBet placing the Canaries at 4/9 to go down despite the fact that Neil Adams’s side are currently two points clear of Fulham. If this season has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected. There is bound to be a few more twists and turns in the relegation battle yet so despite the incredibly difficult task ahead for Norwich such facts will at least keep the players motivated for an upset. Ultimately however, whilst Norwich may gain a few of points from their remaining fixtures, they will not pick up enough points to avoid the drop.
Tottenham’s Anthony Martial decision looked justified against Brighton
The Frenchman was poor against Brighton after summer in which Tottenham tried to sign him.
There were plenty of poor performances from the Manchester United players. The likes of Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof and even David De Gea did not cover themselves in glory. But Anthony Martial might have been the pick of the bunch.
With Alexis Sanchez missing the Frenchman got a surprise start but failed to take his opportunity. He looked disinterested at times and was anonymous throughout, before being hauled off by Mourinho.
“After thinking about all the factors and possibilities, Anthony wants to leave Manchester United. There are lots of factors, and right now it’s too early to talk about them…”
It comes at the end of a summer in which it seemed he would leave. The player wanted to go, as confirmed by his agent.
Tottenham Hotspur were heavily linked with his signature. However, as reported by the Evening Standard, Spurs were never going to pay the asking price for the French international – set at a cool £80 million by the Old Trafford hierarchy.
At one point toward the end of the transfer window, it appeared that things have softened and a deal might go through. But Tottenham did not get their man.
Based on the evidence on display this afternoon, Tottenham fans might be pleased. But his display today shows exactly why he should have been allowed to join Tottenham this summer.
Clearly, he is not happy. Because on his day the 21-year-old is a devastating forward with the ability to leave even the best defences in tatters.
A move to Tottenham could have reinvigorated his spirit and career. As it is, he is stuck at United where he looks set to cut a destitute figure until January at least. If he carries on this form, then Tottenham are unlikely to come knocking on the door again.
Three selection headaches Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino faces ahead of Manchester United trip
The Argentinian made two changes against Fulham having beaten Newcastle and despite the impressive win at Wembley, could make more before heading to the north-west with several doubts over key men in the team.
Here are some of the biggest decisions he will have to make over the week ahead…
Ben Davies or Danny Rose?
Ben Davies has had a poor pre-season and a disappointing start to the Premier League season, potentially opening the door for a return for Danny Rose. Linked with an exit in the summer, Rose was on the bench against Fulham and could be applying the pressure on the Welshman who took his place last season.
It seems unlikely that Pochettino would make such a change for such an important fixture, but equally he may not want to gamble on Davies costing his team with an error.
Lucas Moura in attack?
One of the best performers throughout pre-season and, in particular, against Fulham, has been Lucas Moura. The Brazilian has played as a second striker and been impressive, creating and finishing chances and posing an alternative threat to Harry Kane.
Yet, selecting Moura means that Pochettino must sacrifice a midfielder such as Moussa Dembele, which he may be reluctant to do going to Old Trafford. This decision will be a clear reflection of how confident Pochettino feels about his team’s chances of a win.
Is it right to play Toby Alderweireld?
Goal were among many sources to claim that the Belgian was close to joining Jose Mourinho’s side this summer as speculation continued throughout the transfer window. Alderweireld returned to the line-up for only his sixth appearance for the club in 2018 against Fulham, but Pochettino may have doubts.
The coach could question whether Alderweireld’s mentality would be correct to face a club he reportedly wanted to sign for in only his second appearance of the season, and with the likes of Eric Dier ready to step in, he may opt to be cautious.
One winner, one loser from Newcastle’s draw to Cardiff
Newcastle United had an eventful afternoon in Cardiff and there will be mixed feelings about the final result. The game finished as a goalless draw after the visitors had a player sent off. Based on that, it would look to be a good result, but the Magpies missed a penalty in the last minute to take all three points.
It was an underwhelming display from Newcastle, as they were second best for long periods and didn’t offer as much of a goal threat as they did against Tottenham. Rafa Benitez will be disappointed by the performance and will have got that point across to his players at full-time. Below we discuss a winner and loser from the match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Winner – Jamaal Lascelles
There was a lot of interest from other clubs during the summer, but Jamaal Lascelles stayed at St James’ Park and he should be set for another season of development under Benitez. He was clearly the stand out player for Newcastle, as he put his body on the line to earn an important clean sheet.
The captain won six aerial duels as he stood up to the physical assault deployed by Cardiff. In addition to his aerial dominance, he completed four ball recoveries and six clearances in an excellent defensive performance.
His pass success rate of 82% underlines his improvement on the ball over the last 12 months. Lascelles is quickly becoming one of the best English centre-backs and he will be crucial to Newcastle’s ambitions this season.
Loser – Kenedy
The Chelsea loanee is regarded as one of Newcastle’s most talented players, but there is a reason why he is in their squad rather than playing for his parent club. The Brazilian is capable of magical performances, but he is also capable of some very poor displays. Against Cardiff, his showing fell into the latter.
Kenedy finished the match with a pass success rate of 57%, which was very poor. His decision making throughout was disappointing and he was trying to do too much to make up for his lack of contribution.
During the final minutes, he shanked a free-kick into the wall, before tamely hitting the penalty into an easy area for the goalkeeper to save. Kenedy shouldn’t have been given the opportunity to take the spot-kick, as it was clear that he was having a poor afternoon. There will be better days for the Brazilian, but this was one to forget.
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