Nine heads are better than one for Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City may not be taking on the best in Europe in the sense that tomorrow’s opponents are doing year in, year out – but their name is still mentioned in the same breath as some of the heavyweights of club football.
Earlier this season, when the Canaries went 10 Premier League matches without defeat, they were credited with the second best unbeaten run in Europe after Barcelona.
And only this week, their aerial prowess was under the spotlight when it was confirmed that over the top five European leagues, only Serie A club Siena have scored a higher proportion of their goals from headers than Norwich.
Siena, struggling in their own league, have scored 41 per cent of their goals in such a fashion, while City’s proportion is 37 per cent – or, to be precise, 10 of their 27 league goals.
Indeed, so well spread is the aerial threat in the Canaries’ squad that nine different players have been responsible for those 10 goals, with only defender Sébastien Bassong scoring twice with his head in league matches, in the 1-1 draw at Everton and the 4-3 win at Swansea.
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Substitute Kei Kamara joined the list with his late equaliser in the 2-1 win over Everton last weekend and, most memorably, it was Anthony Pilkington who floored Manchester United at Carrow Road back in November with a magnificent header from Javier Garrido’s cross.
Not surprisingly, the names of Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass feature prominently in a breakdown of City’s headed goals – see below – even if the Scot has yet to nod one in from numerous chances and once admitted it was the weakest part of his game.
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As City head for Old Trafford in search of an unlikely Premier League double, manager Chris Hughton admitted they had profited from air raids in enemy territory.
“Generally when you are scoring headed goals there are two things. One is a desire to get on the end of it and more importantly it’s about the delivery. If the delivery is good enough then you’ve certainly got an opportunity to score,” he said.
“You look at Snodgrass and Pilkington and you have two good deliverers of the ball. Most clubs you look at have that.
“If you look at Manchester United at times, and look at Van Persie’s delivery on some free- kicks, it is very, very difficult to defend against.
“Certainly we work on it, though whether we work any more than any other team, I don’t know. It’s not an area we have specifically singled out.”
City have scored a dozen Premier League goals from corners and free-kicks this season, skipper Grant Holt benefiting just once from a Snodgrass free-kick at Swansea, though his late winner against Everton owed much to an excellent cross by Russell Martin and the aerial presence of Bassong and Kamara.
He said: “When you’re playing with one up top you’re limited as to the number of chances you get, so if you get in an area where you’ve got a free-kick or corner you’ve got to make best use of it.
“With the players we have out wide, the likes of Snodgrass, Garrido and Pilkington, the quality we get into the box is certainly something we work on.
“We know a lot of the lads can deliver it where they want and the size of lads we have in there, it’s something you need to work on.
“If you’ve got to go with a gameplan to Old Trafford or the Emirates, when you do get in those situations, corners and free-kicks, you need to at least hurt them because that’s your biggest ally on that day.”
• HEADS WE WIN - MOST OF THE TIME
August 25 – Simeon Jackson (City 1, QPR 1): Jackson nodded home at the far post from Pilkington’s inch-perfect cross, City’s first goal of the season.
October 27 – Michael Turner (Aston Villa 1, City 1): From a Snodgrass short corner, Hoolahan crossed and Turner headed in off the post, his first Norwich goal.
November 3 – Bradley Johnson (City 1, Stoke 0): Johnson scored on the stroke of half-time with a backheader from a Snodgrass free-kick.
November 17 – Anthony Pilkington (City 1, Manchester United 0): Pilkington’s first goal of the season was a perfectly-placed header from a Garrido cross.
November 24 – Sébastien Bassong (Everton 1, City 1): Bassong’s first goal for Norwich, heading a last-minute equaliser from a free-kick by Garrido.
December 8 – Sébastien Bassong (Swansea 3, City 4): Bassong made it 2-0 to the Canaries with a downward header from Holt’s cross.
December 8 – Grant Holt (Swansea 3, City 4): The unmarked Holt scored with a powerful header to make it 3-0 as Snodgrass floated in a free-kick from the right.
December 15 – Wes Hoolahan (City 2, Wigan 1): Hoolahan outjumped two defenders to score the winner with a near-post header from Pilkington’s cross.
December 29 – Russell Martin (City 3, Manchester City 4): From a short corner, Snodgrass crossed to the far post, Bassong headed it back and Martin scored with a glancing header.
February 23 – Kei Kamara (City 2, Everton 1): Substitute Kamara jumped highest to head the equaliser from a Snodgrass corner.