The FourFourTwo Preview: Swansea vs Norwich
Angry birds scrap it out for the right to take a giant stride toward safety.
Few teams have taken points away from the Emirates this season; Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United earning draws since the Gunners’ opening day debacle against Aston Villa. So for Swansea to leave north London on Tuesday night disappointed to only pick up a point against Arsene Wenger’s wobblers says much for their state of mind despite their barren run.
- Arsenal 2-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Everton 3-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 1-2 WBA (Prem)
- Swansea 1-1 Palace (Prem)
- Napoli 3-1 Swansea (EL)
- Norwich 2-0 S'land (Prem)
- So'ton 4-2 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 1-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Aston Villa 4-1 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 1-0 Spurs (Prem)
Having squandered their first-half lead with a mad minute in which both Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud netted, Garry Monk’s men profited from a late Mathieu Flamini own goal to share the spoils. They even threatened to score a last-gasp winner only for referee Lee Probert to controversially call time on proceedings midway through a Swansea counter-attack.
“We're clean through on goal, 99 per cent a goalscoring opportunity is going to come and they blow up 30 seconds short. A very poor decision, as simple as that,” fumed Monk afterwards.
City are winless in nine games since drubbing Cardiff in the derby, but spirits will be high going into a crunch game against Norwich; one place and two points above them in the table.
And while both the Swans and Canaries have spent much of the season peering precariously over their shoulders, a win for either at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday would mark a significant step to preserving their Premier League status.
Norwich boss Chris Hughton has perfected the knack of picking up a (home) win at just the right time to keep himself in the job.
Four clean sheets from their last five Carrow Road outings (and three wins) have lifted the Canaries seven points above the dreaded dotted line. But they know (as does as every man and his dog by now) that points from their next three games against Swansea, West Brom and Fulham are paramount ahead of their run-in against the big boys.
Two of these next three titanic tussles are away from Norfolk, though, and 11 defeats from 15 league trips this season doesn't bode well.
Last weekend’s wonder-goal grabber Alexander Tettey is bewildered by their dismal record on the road, saying: “I don't know what’s going on – but there is something going on. I don't know what happens when we play at home. All of a sudden we have confidence. There is something mentally going on that we have to get rid of, because if we can win away from home and win at home, everything will be fine.”
Norwich’s last two trips to Wales have been thrillers; 2-3 in 2012 and 3-4 last season. And with both sides eyeing a win in this game as key to them sealing survival, another open affair could be on the cards.
Only the hamstrung Kyle Bartley is sidelined for Swansea. Norwich’s treatment room is slowly starting to clear, but hamstrung pair Leroy Fer and Michael Turner and the knee-knacked Elliott Bennett will sit this one out.
Player to watch: Alexander Tettey (Norwich)
The 27-year-old stole the show against Sunderland with his blockbuster goal, and the former Rennes man also ran the midfield, completing a game-high 50 out of 56 passes and making 7 ball recoveries for his side.
It was no flash in the pan performance from the Norway international, either. Even in defeat at Southampton the previous week, Tettey made 8 ball recoveries, won all 5 of his tackles and all 4 aerial duels, while the 1-0 success over Spurs at the end of February saw Tettey make more interceptions than anyone else.
“Alex is absolutely key in that role because it does give (others) a bit more of a licence,” Hughton said earlier this season. “He is a very good athlete and is always good when he has a little bit of momentum in his game.”
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- N'wich 1-1 Swans (Prem, Dec 13)
- N'wich 2-2 Swans (Prem, Apr 13)
- Swans 3-4 N'wich (Prem, Dec 12)
- Swans 2-3 N'wich (Prem, Feb 12)
- N'wich 3-1 Swans (Prem, Oct 11)
Rookie manager Monk remains confident in his methods despite Swansea’s winless streak stretching to nine matches, saying: “If I thought I wasn't doing the right things then I'd hold my hands up. If you asked the players who see how hard I work, I think they'd say I'm doing the right things.”
Counterpart Hughton was thrilled by his side’s display against relegation rivals Sunderland last time out, but is refusing to set a points target, saying on whether 40 would be enough:
“On averages (looking at past seasons) that can be the case, but I don't think anyone knows what that number (to avoid relegation) will be. It's important to have as big a gap as possible to the bottom three.
Facts and figures
- Swansea have drawn half their 18 home games against bottom-half teams since the start of last season.
- 12 of Swansea’s last 16 home matches have had at least 3 goals.
- Both teams have scored in all 5 meetings between these sides since 2011/12.
- Norwich have drawn the first half in 9 of their last 15 away matches against bottom-half teams.
Another Liberty thriller as both sides go for it, but this time neither can find a winner. 2-2.