Friday, December 21, 2012
Even off the back of several successful seasons in the recent history, Norwich City’s impressive form continues to raise the bar.
Saturday’s Carrow Road victory over Wigan was the Canaries’ fifth successive home league win following triumphs over Arsenal, Stoke, Manchester United and Sunderland – equalling the club’s top-flight record.
The 1977-78 old Division One is the only other time City have notched a run of five home wins in English football’s top flight. Bristol City, Arsenal (both 1-0), Newcastle, Wolves (both 2-1) and Leicester (2-0) all succumbed to John Bond’s flamboyant Norwich side that included the likes of Martin Peters, Kevins Keelan and Reeves, Colin Suggett and Jimmy Neighbour. That particular run ended with a goalless draw with Chelsea – and by a remarkable quirk of fate, the Blues are the next visitors to Carrow Road in the Premier League on Boxing Day.
City’s current run of 10 league games unbeaten has also garnered fame across the country, with the help of the fact Lionel Messi and his fellow history makers at Barcelona are the only side across European football’s top seven divisions to lay claim to a longer run.
The La Liga champions have gone 16 games without defeat – but be it Marseille and Paris St Germain in France’s Ligue Un, Juventus, Inter and Milan in Italy’s Serie A or across the Netherlands and Belgium, no one else can match or better the Canaries’ stunning run of form.
While Norwich dare to dream about where their campaign could take them as they sit eighth in the Premier League – four points off the Champions League places and 10 clear of the relegation zone – West Brom’s early season promise is in danger of unravelling.
At the start of October, 11 points separated the fourth-placed Baggies and second from bottom City. But four successive wins have been followed by three defeats for Albion, while Sunday’s goalless draw at home to West Ham arrested their results slide but still left Steve Clarke’s men without a goal in more than 315 minutes of action.
As far as striker Peter Odemwingie is concerned, opponents are paying them a big compliment each week.
“They’ve seen we have quality and pace – I’ve noticed people play more careful against us now,” said the Nigeria star. “It becomes a bit more difficult but that’s when you need to show character and belief that we are growing.
“We have been doing well this season and we’ve had a bad three weeks, but hopefully we can score goals again.”
While the Canaries have missed out on any Africa Cup of Nations absences over January – primarily thanks to Cameroon’s failure to qualify and reluctance to select Sebastien Bassong – West Brom are unlikely to be so lucky, with Odemwingie heading out with Nigeria to South Africa in the new year. And the 31-year-old wants to make sure he leaves West Brom in a healthy place.
“I want to be going there in the new year with West Brom high in the table which would help me emotionally,” he said.
“I will miss a couple of weeks here, but I believe we have a squad that can hold on to the good start we have had.”
• Current unbeaten runs across Europe’s top leagues:
Barcelona (La Liga, Spain) – 16 games since last loss
Norwich City (Premier League) – 10
Zulte-Waregem (Jupiler League, Belgium) – 9
Bayern Munich (Bundesliga, Germany), Nice (Ligue Un, France) – 8
Ajax, Feyenoord (Eredivisie, Netherlands), Lazio (Serie A, Italy) – 6