Norwich's striking weakness endangering survival

Posted by Martin Laurence, WhoScored.com

Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty ImagesGrant Holt: Just five Premier League goals this season

Having nearly come away from the Emirates with all three points last weekend it seems wrong to question Norwich's Premier League status. However, the late defeat left them in the thick of a relegation battle that seemed a near impossibility at Christmas.

A run of 10 league matches without a loss culminated with a 2-1 home win over Wigan in December, but since that victory the Canaries have won just one of their last 16 league encounters. WhoScored.com takes a look at the weaknesses that will need addressing if they do beat the drop for the difficult second season that follows promotion to the top-flight.

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The fixtures certainly suggest that Norwich have enough to stay up this term, which would definitely represent a successful first season in charge for Chris Hughton. The former Newcastle boss admitted early on in his tenure that his approach is a more pragmatic one to that of former boss Paul Lambert, and that much has been evident following a tough start to the campaign.

Norwich have kept nine clean sheets this season, which is more than five of the teams in the top half thus far, while only four teams have conceded fewer goals at home (17). Indeed, only Sunderland's home games have produced fewer goals than those of Norwich (35).

If the East Anglian outfit were to go down this season, it will be abundantly clear where the problem has been. They've won just once away from home all season, and their defensive solidity has gone to pot on the road, conceding a joint league high of 35 goals.

While their away form could prove costly, an underlying issue all season has been a lack of goals, highlighted by the fact that their joint-top scorers in the league, Grant Holt and Robert Snodgrass, have just five apiece. The fact that both of those players have more yellow cards than goals is quite telling, as Norwich certainly have the fight to stay in the league, but perhaps lack the quality.

Only QPR's top scorers have such low figures this season, with Adel Taarabt and Loic Remy also on five, and the West Londoners look doomed to relegation. While Hughton's side have eminently winnable games between now and the end of the season, they need a player to step up and prove to be the match-winner in those fixtures if they are to survive. Over the past six matches only centre-back Michael Turner has scored more than once for Norwich.

It's easy to just blame the strikers for a lack of goals, and captain Holt has certainly been far less instrumental this season, but Norwich lack creativity. Only Reading and Stoke have created fewer chances from open play than the Canaries (191), and only Wes Hoolahan has averaged more than one chance created from open play per game (1.28). The fact that Holt (0.83) ranks second in the side in this category is indicative of their problem.

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The likes of Bradley Johnson, Alexander Tettey and Jonathan Howson all put in a lot of work defensively, completing a combined total of 178 tackles, but together they've mustered just one goal and three assists. In turn only 28% of their attacking touches are directed down the middle of the pitch, with the side instead leaning to Snodgrass' right flank (42% of the time - a joint league high with Stoke).

Hughton has certainly looked to add goals to his side by agreeing a deal for Sporting striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel ahead of the summer, representing somewhat of a coup for the club, but if he doesn't get the service he won't supply the goals required. Reports that any transfer will not go ahead if the side are relegated will concern some of the fans, but avoiding such an eventuality is firmly in the team's hands.

Norwich's run-in is undoubtedly one of the more favourable of the sides in the scrap at the bottom, with three of their five remaining games set to be played at Carrow Road perhaps the biggest blessing. Their survival could indeed be sealed as early as this weekend with a home game against bottom club Reading, before making the trip to struggling Stoke. However, if they do stay up a summer of spending, particularly in central areas, may be needed if Norwich are to cement their Premier League status for the years to come.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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