David Freezer: Norwich City keeping fine company as firepower proves pivotal
Remarkable form in front of goal has lifted Norwich City to the top of English football’s goal-scoring charts, with just three Premier League giants ahead of Daniel Farke’s exciting team so far this season.
The Canaries registered their 68th goal of the campaign when beating Bristol City at Carrow Road last weekend, the 3-2 victory moving them to an average of exactly two goals per game.
Ahead of this weekend’s action – including the hugely important clash of Championship rivals Leeds and West Brom last night – only Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal have been more prolific than the Canaries.
Pep Guardiola’s reigning top-flight champions City have scored a superb 75 goals in 28 games to average 2.68 per game, ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s current Premier League leaders Liverpool, who have scored 64 (2.29pg).
Arsenal are ahead of Norwich on 60 (2.14) – thanks to a 5-1 thrashing of Bournemouth in midweek – and close behind were West Brom and League One leaders Luton, tied on 1.97 with 67 from 34 games.
All that matters at this stage of the season is league position of course, and City know that victory at Millwall today will ensure they head into next week still a minimum of two points clear in top spot in the Championship, thanks to Leeds losing their game in hand at QPR on Tuesday.
Yet it’s another indicator of just how well Farke’s unexpected title challengers have performed this season, that they can even be mentioned in the same realms as the big-spending Premier League big boys.
To score at least three goals in five of the last seven matches is remarkable and emphasises that City supporters are really being spoiled by their in-form team at present – with 36 goals scored in the 15 games since they last drew a blank, the 0-0 draw at Hull in November.
I took a quick look around the second tiers of the major European countries as well, to see how the Canaries compare to their continental equivalents.
They are out-scoring the top scorers in Spain’s Segunda Division, where Deportivo La Coruna and Cadiz – sitting third and sixth respectively – have 38 from 28 each (1.36).
It’s a similar story in Ligue 2 in France, where second-placed Brest are leading the way in front of goal with 44 from 26 (1.69) but in Italy the Serie B leaders Brescia are ahead of City on 2.12 thanks to 53 goals in 25 games.
There are also two high-scoring teams in Bundesliga II in Germany, where leaders Cologne can almost rival Manchester City with an average of 2.48 per game thanks to a huge 57 goals in 23 matches so far.
Meanwhile, not far behind are Paderborn, who must have wisely reinvested the reported £1.3m Norwich paid them for Dennis Srbeny last January to have 54 from 23 games (2.34) despite sitting seventh.
I’ll revisit theses tallies at the end of the season when, if City keep up their current clinical form, we’ll surely be assessing how they deal with that firepower of the Premier League big boys once again.
• HIGH-FLYING CANARIES
Thanks to Canaries fan Hamish Jolly for getting in touch, as he celebrated last weekend’s win over Bristol City from a rather unusual location.
Hamish, 33, tweeted us from base camp on Mount Everest, over 5,000 metres above sea level in the Himalayas, posting a photo of him jumping for joy and writing: “Thanks for the three points on Saturday, made this all worth it at base camp Everest.”
The former chairman of the Capital Canaries supporters club took on the challenge of the seven-day trek at high altitude as part of his travels.
He didn’t take on the daunting and dangerous full climb of the world’s tallest mountain, standing at over 8,840 metres, between Nepal and Tibet, but has clearly been inspired by City climbing their own proverbial mountain in the Championship this season.
“This was a solo, non-charity effort, but apparently I was the 12th fastest trekker!” Hamish told me, after arriving in Bali to continue his own adventure.
• PRAISE FOR MILLWALL
And so to The Den, where sadly you still have to watch your back as an away fan, as shown by the depressing scenes of attempted hooliganism which greeted Everton fans in the FA Cup in January.
Unfortunately that minority of morons still exists but Millwall deserve praise for the efforts they’re putting in to make their club more family-friendly, with a ‘community day’ being held this afternoon to showcase the club’s education and charity work.
They also sent a letter to fans who have bought tickets for their home quarter-final against Brighton, stating that “the spotlight will be on the behaviour of Lions fans more than ever” after an FA charge for failing to control the crowd. Also reminding fans that discriminatory chanting is illegal, it concluded: “As always we call on supporters to help create the type of atmosphere which gives the team the best possible chance of defeating Brighton...but also implore those in attendance not to step over that line.”