December 9 2013 Latest news:
Paddy Davitt, Norwich City Writer
Monday, September 16, 2013
Bradley Johnson’s haunted look when he was substituted in the second half should be more instructive than the endless gnashing of teeth over systems and personnel that accompany Norwich City’s worst days.
Johnson is a warrior who is at his best when the battle is fierce and the Canaries’ as a unit appear capable of upsetting the established order in the Premier League. But at White Hart Lane, of all places, this Arsenal supporter was part of a collective surrender that proved an unedifying spectacle.
You can use the staggering financial imbalance between both clubs in the summer transfer window as partial justification for the ease with which Norwich were brushed aside. Tottenham’s 83rd minute substitute, Erik Lamela, by all reasonable estimates cost more than Norwich’s entire club-record outlay over a productive close season period at Carrow Road.
Christian Eriksen looked a steal on the evidence of his Spurs’ debut; the Dane’s majestic grace and technical proficiency fuelled Tottenham’s blurring attacking motions down both flanks after total dominance had been swiftly wrestled in central areas thanks to the control and athleticism of Paulinho and Mousa Dembele.
Tottenham’s lavish outlay is designed not to offset the sizeable loss of Gareth Bale’s departure to Real Madrid, but to equip Andre Villas-Boas with the raw material required to take the final step in his club’s quest for Champions League football.
Norwich’s spending patterns have raised expectation levels on a more modest scale in a bid to avoid a less fraught passage to survival at the outset of their third consecutive top flight tilt.
The Canaries have admirably shown on more than one occasion they can bridge that chasm in recent league and cup tussles with Spurs. This latest duel decisively bucked the trend. This was purely an exercise in Premier League points accumulation for a Tottenham team in transition.
Spurs exuded a confidence that bordered on arrogance. City appeared overwhelmed as much by the ferocity of Tottenham’s collective early pressing as they were by the quality of their sharp interplay.
The hosts’ out-fought as well as out-thought Chris Hughton’s side. Minutes before the interval there was one sliver of action in front of the dugouts that perfectly illustrated the balance of power at White Hart Lane. Nathan Redmond and then Leroy Fer were dismissively levered off the ball by first Kyle Walker and Andros Townsend to trigger another threat to John Ruddy’s goal. One simple act that offered a telling insight into the mindset of these two protagonists. Tottenham started aggressively and grew with each passing minute; Norwich appeared willingly submissive in the face of such a sustained attacking onslaught.
Redmond and Fer were the stand out performers in that Southampton success prior to the recent break, but they too appeared trapped within the collective malaise that afflicted Hughton’s men in north London; seemingly paralysed by Tottenham’s high-energy, high-tempo pressure.
Hughton and his players would know full well the perils of giving any encouragement to European contenders on home soil after Chelsea and Liverpool both swept City aside last season on days when Norwich similarly failed to muster any sustained forward thrust.
Tottenham’s laxness whenever they routinely threatened to harass Norwich’s backline ensured there would be no major damage inflicted to City’s goal difference column. But that should fool no-one who was in attendance. Norwich on this particular day were well off the pace and fortunate to escape further punishment.
The manner if not the scale of defeat will force Hughton and his players to undergo fresh bouts of introspection as they strive to find the reasons behind such another below-par instalment away from Norfolk.
Frustration will spring from the simple knowledge City as individuals and as a team are so much better than the sparse offering they served up at White Hart Lane. Tottenham may well have still prevailed, given their envious reserves of talent, but there would have been none of the sour aftertaste that will linger ahead of Aston Villa’s league visit.
Norwich’s labours at Tottenham and before that at Hull this season carry worrying undertones. They hint at the residual inconsistency that blighted the club’s previous campaign. When Norwich perform tactically and technically to their collective optimum they do not look out of place in exalted company, but the deferential manner they imploded at Tottenham is another recurring theme.
Much of that momentum whipped up by Redmond’s sweet strike to sink Southampton was lost in north London, but these are still early faltering days. City’s stirring response to adversity is another theme that should never be in doubt.
Perhaps it takes a Premier League victory forged through adversity to view Norwich City in a more reflective light.