Canaries visit Arsenal
13 April ~ "Two more wins, that's all we need to stay up." This is the mantra with which anyone connected to Norwich City has found reassurance over the last month. Players, fans and the manager have all been chanting it in public with an air of confidence and defiance, yet in private many will have begun to recite it more in hope after only one win in 17 games. The alternative, "Six more draws", isn't much of a rallying cry but might be a more realistic target. No Premier League team has drawn more games than Norwich's 14 this season.
Last Saturday's 2-2 against a fluid and committed Swansea team gave cause for optimism. Our previous draw came after slogging for an hour with ten men at Sunderland, only to be denied all three points by a number of questionable penalty decisions by Chris Foy.
With a solid back four and two defensive midfielders we are set up to contain the opposition and although there have been spectacular capitulations this season, they have been rare. One hinderance to the potential six draws will be away trips to Manchester City and, today, Arsenal.
The Gunners are in good form with six wins from their last seven games and have rarely dropped points at home all season. The relative lack of consistency in defence which hindered them before the clocks went forward has subsided and they retain the ability to dominate possession against weaker teams. Norwich must put pressure on the ball and stay compact if they are to deny their hosts too many opportunities for diagonal through-balls.
The Canaries can at least take heart from a recent run of good form against their hosts. It was against Arsenal on October 20 that our season finally kicked off as a spectacle, with Chris Hughton's first victory since taking charge. A subsequent purple patch ended before Christmas, since which we have won only once and seem continually destined to battle it out with Stoke for the final slot on Match of the Day every Saturday night. Like Stoke we are organised defensively but a desperate lack of creativity or strength in numbers going forward has led to a gradual slide down the table. We create too few goalscoring chances for an out-of-form Grant Holt, or Kei Kamara who is still to find form since his January arrival from MLS.
Few supporters dwelt at that time on the sale of striker Steve Morison to Leeds but even he could boast a prolific two goals in two games against Arsenal last season, including a late equaliser in a 3-3 draw. But perhaps the Canaries' finest moment in this fixture came 20 years ago when Mark Robins scored twice as Norwich came from 2-0 down at half time to win 4-2. Unless City can repeat something similar to either of these feats today we may well require more than just draws before the season's end. Dan Thompson