Six things we learned from Norwich City’s inspiring Saints victory

It was all smiles at full-time on Saturday - fuelled by Citys rise up the Premier League table. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

It was all smiles at full-time on Saturday - fuelled by Citys rise up the Premier League table. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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Three points, a red card and home fans with smiles on faces – just as it played out at St Mary’s in August. Michael Bailey finds the key observations as Norwich start the new year like they finished the last…

1 – Carrow Road has officially become ‘a tough place to go’

First we had Jonny Howson, fresh from victory against Aston Villa. The midfielder confirmed one of the things now said in the home dressing room before a game – no one has an easy ride at Carrow Road.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman said similar before Saturday’s game – as did, to a degree, Saints centre-back Virgil van Dijk who had things been a little different in the summer, could have been a more regular visitor to City’s home dressing room.

A supplementary lesson here could be whether Van Dijk looked like an £11.5m centre-half on Saturday? The jury here is out.

Anyway, back to Norwich and their home form.

With Everton’s draw and Crystal Palace brushed aside by Chelsea, just six teams have picked up more points on their own turf than City have at Carrow Road this season: Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester – and then Manchester United where Norwich won, and West Ham where they should have won. In fact, Norwich’s 15 points at home is just nine shy of their Carrow Road tally two season ago. It’s a fine platform and reputation to have, given a lot of the big boys visit Carrow Road over the coming months.

2 – It’s back to back – and about time too

A superb victory at home to West Brom that finally secured Norwich City’s Premier League survival – before a cheering win at Manchester City and a wonderful solo goal from Jonny Howson rounded off the season.

That was back in May 2013 – the last time the Canaries secured back-to-back top-flight victories.

Come Saturday – 58 Premier League games later – the Canaries had finally broken their duck.

City’s barren spell without a real ‘six-pointer’ was the longest of the current 20 Premier League sides – and that, by a country mile.

The last two wins may not stick in the memory quite like how Norwich finished that 2012-13 season, but the consistent way they are currently picking up points is doing them a big favour.

Three wins out of four is still a better points return than had they drawn at Old Trafford and Spurs – even if it would have prevented City’s longest unbeaten run this term from sitting at a rather modest two games.

For the record Everton, Chelsea, Swansea and Aston Villa are the remaining sides yet to record back-to-back league wins this season.

3 – No Tettey, no party and no talk of that Vadis magic

Now here was an example of a truly symbiotic relationship – at least for a weekend.

Alex Tettey’s glorious winner made it two in four games for the Norwegian star and City favourite. And yes, that toe punt at Old Trafford was glorious. Nothing but net.

Of course, Tettey wouldn’t have had that chance had Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe not been a key force once he came on for a disappointingly cautious Nathan Redmond. It was also good of Vadis to give Alex two bites of the cherry.

Meanwhile, Odjidja’s impact – even that nutmeg on Jordy Clasie – was nothing without Tettey’s own piece of side-footed magic.

Tettey’s role at Norwich is clear and reasonably settled. But it is far from as straightforward for what Odjidja could do for City’s season.

The Norwich players have been raving about Vadis’ performances in training over the last month and if the Belgian forward plays like this when it comes to game time, then Tettey is right when he says Odjidja is going to have to start – and in a role off the striker.

That would make life very interesting given Wes Hoolahan, Redmond, Jonny Howson and Robbie Brady are already around and Steven Naismith could be added to the forward party over the coming weeks. Interesting times indeed.

4 – The stats are making good reading for Declan Rudd

There are lies, damn lies and statistics – football loves the latter. So let me regale you with one that came to light before Saturday’s game at Carrow Road.

It read: “Declan Rudd has conceded just seven goals in the five Premier League games he has played this season – 1.4 per game. He has also saved 72pc of shots. In comparison, John Ruddy conceded 25 goals in 14 games – 1.79 per game. He saved 60pc of shots.”

Following that win over Southampton, Rudd’s stats now sit at seven goals conceded in six top-flight games – 1.17 per game. With at least four saves on Saturday, that 72pc figure will be even higher too.

Now as Alex Neil said after victory over Saints, Norwich are simply defending better at the moment. And there is no doubt that Rudd has pretty much avoided seeing some of the defensive errors happen in front of him that were all too often hindering Ruddy’s progress.

At the same time, does Rudd’s form instigate a confidence that makes all that tick?

The key thing here is Dec looks the part – and the current stats back that up.

5 – All is not well at Southampton

Last week Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger gave an impassioned address to the players, staff and officials about where the club was headed.

It appears Sadio Mané’s response to that has been to throw a few toys out of his pram.

Now it’s not clear if this is just a bit of mischief, or something that points to the forthcoming transfer window.

Either way, Ronald Koeman cut a furious figure as he spoke to the media after Saturday’s result – and doesn’t plan to let Mané get away with his indiscretion.

Of course, the problem was Southampton weren’t great without their number 10 and had to bring him on with a few minutes left to try to get them out of a hole.

And that only strengthens Mané’s position in the long run – whatever the end game.

It all reminded me of when Lewis Grabban went AWOL at Rotherham – and the calm, dignified manner that Alex Neil dealt with it. You knew he was angry, but he always looked in control.

Results help of course – and Southampton really are struggling. But at least Victor Wanyama has since apologised for his red – the smallest of consolations.

6 – The drop zone has brought out the best in City

While Norwich’s draw with Everton a few weeks ago was met with smiles, that weekend was a nightmare. Superb wins for Bournemouth and Newcastle condemned City to a spot in the drop zone for the first meaningful time this season – a fact not lost on anyone – and the jokes about when City would next get out of it were in full flow.

It was perhaps the real legacy of City’s previous Premier League failure – that familiar sinking feeling meant serious questions were going to appear over the forthcoming games.

In which case the character and spirit inside the Norwich dressing room should be praised to the hilt – because since that woeful first half against Everton and subsequent recovery, City have won three of their next four games and can now enjoy – if that’s the right word – a six-point buffer to the drop zone.

It’s a superb run of form that if Norwich can continue over coming weeks, could really see them make serious progress in planning for a second season among English football’s elite.

The balance between attack and defence is better, City look hard to beat and while the football is not always free-flowing, it’s more than good enough.

Add to that their spirit, and it’s hard not to have high hopes for the future.

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey

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  • Spot on Reg. This season is all about survival. If you can play beautiful flowing football and get points, all well and good but if we have to choose between style and points, I'll take the points, for now. Alex's squad is getting more versatile, a good omen.

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    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • One or two games recently may have appeared low on quality, but learning to 'win ugly', is yet more evidence of AN's progress. We played some beautiful football earlier in the season and came away with no points all too often. With 6 defenders on the field we can hardly expect free flowing possession football; but for the most part we are preventing the opposition playing to their strengths, and therein lies our improved results.

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    Reg Breeze

    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • I agree Surrey. This was not an inspirational win. This was a very good win, because the only way to go in the right direction is by putting several wins together, rather than the odd win and draw. Both sides were pretty awful, and as a premier-ship match overall, it was indeed, very low on quality. Redmond is an enigma. I can understand why he doesn't go flying down the wing...there would be no one in the middle once he gets into a crossing position. It's up to Neil to get the best out of what we have. Vadis had a very decent outing, but the game is 90 minutes not 20. At Tottenham he started off brightly and then was swamped, although I concede everyone was. It was perhaps the one and only time this season so far that we have been outclassed. But he needs to put it in several games in a row, to convince me.

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    Erpingham Tractor

    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • Malaga I completely agree. His tracking back is always poor, so if he's not putting on the style going forward I can see why he was taken off. Anyhow, he has had some decent purple patches under this manager so let's hope he kicks on. I read an interesting article on him in the Guardian last week where he stated he wasn't in a rush to leave as he want's to develop and prove himself in the prem with city.

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    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • "End of" must be the most crass and clichéd ending to a "discussion". End of... Ooops!.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • While I do not want to vilify Redmond I find it sad that the lad doesn't appear to me to have progressed significantly since he joined us. In fact when he first arrived he seemed to play more freely, using his pace and playing to his natural instincts. He now looks like he is unsure of what to do once he has the ball, resulting in him too often stopping and turning inside and into trouble rather than striking down the wing and putting pressure on his full back. He also seems to have trouble making the right decisions, trying to score from difficult angles when a cross was required for instance. The odd thing is that he probably plays better for the national U21 side than for Norwich.

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    malaga flier

    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • agree surrey and throw in brady.but concerned,even with redmond tracking back,that we looked to leave too much space on the right side of our defence

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    dis dressed

    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • agree surrey and throw in brady.but concerned,even with redmond tracking back,that we looked to leave too much space on the right side of our defence

    Report this comment

    dis dressed

    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • Look at the money Man United Villa and Southampton have spent Surrey Canary. We still beat them. End of.

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    Monday, January 4, 2016

  • We beat Villa ( as we should have done) and Southampton (down to 10 men), but were they really brilliant performances from City? We ground out the wins; but we did give the opposition opportunities - thank goodness for Rudd and Bennett. We beat an under par Man Utd. I think we are going to get a much more realistic test from Stoke. Man City will be interesting - they have a League Cup game this week. How much of a weakened team will they send out against City? Vadis has to start ahead of Redmond now, surely?

    Report this comment

    Surrey Canary

    Monday, January 4, 2016

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