Melissa Rudd: A bit more King Power wouldn’t go amiss over Christmas
PUBLISHED: 09:00 19 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:18 19 December 2019
“The problem is they were so well drilled and organised. We had no answer to it.”
After a second-half shambles against Sheffield United, that wasn't a sentence I was expecting to hear in a conversation between two Leicester fans miserably trudging back to their car on Saturday.
Brendan Rodgers' side had won eight consecutive games and were priced as short as 1/5 to inflict a seventh away day misery on the Canaries.
Yet Norwich City have a habit of surprising you when you least expect it, and their performance at the King Power Stadium was up there with their finest of this campaign - even better than the one against Manchester City according to Daniel Farke.
While the home fans were quick to point out the weaknesses in their own team's display, that can't detract from Norwich's outstanding effort that in truth should have yielded all three points.
Perhaps these results should no longer come as a shock, for there is a trend emerging this season. Quantifying better performances isn't always possible through statistics, but there are a couple of telling ones. Against the current top-four sides, City have averaged a point a game, and scored an average of 1.75 goals. Against teams elsewhere in the division, they have averaged 0.61 points a game and scored 0.84 goals per match.
It's difficult to put a finger on quite why that is. City do seem to up their game against better teams. It could also be argued they leave more space in behind for Teemu Pukki to find joy - that was definitely the case at Leicester.
Norwich completely outnumbered their opposition in midfield and found Pukki time and again with the ball through to the striker, either on the floor, like the one which led to his goal, or in the air. If it wasn't for the pace of Caglar Soyuncu in particular he would have added more to his tally.
Pukki has now scored against each of the top four teams - the Finnish international clearly relishes the opportunity to pit his wits against the country's best sides. He should have opened the scoring when he got on the end of an excellent Max Aarons cross in the 16th minute, but that miss certainly didn't dent his confidence when just 10 minutes later he converted a perfectly-weighted Emi Buendia through ball past a helpless Kasper Schmeichel to give Norwich a deserved lead. It was only the 11th time Leicester had conceded all season.
It may have been James Maddison's first game against Norwich since his £22.5m transfer to Leicester in the summer of 2018, but instead of lamenting the loss of former heroes it turned out to be a day to cherish one who this City side simply couldn't do without.
Pukki has now scored more goals in 17 matches this season than City's top goalscorer in their previous three Premier League campaigns. The fact that he played half the match with an injured toe yet dismissed fears he will miss any games over the festive period is testament to his work ethic and determination to do the very best for his team.
City will again be underdogs when they begin the festive period at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Prior to Jan Vertonghen's injury-time winner against them at the weekend they had gone 11 league games unbeaten, an impressive period of form that also saw them comfortably qualify for the knockout rounds of the Europa League.
It's the first of three home fixtures for Norwich in an 11-day period. If they are to have any hope of surviving there must be a drastic improvement in home form. Since that memorable 3-2 victory against Manchester City in September, Farke's team have picked up just one point from the five matches at Carrow Road since.
There has been a somewhat subdued atmosphere at some of those fixtures, largely dictated by the calibre of performance on the pitch. But fans have to play their part in this crucial period in helping to make it an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams - starting on Saturday.
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