If you’d have told me as we head towards late October I’d be writing about how newly-promoted Norwich City could go above Liverpool in the Premier League table with a win at Anfield, well let’s just say I would have laughed you out of town.
Yet it is Paul Lambert who is laughing hardest (actually, looking at him that’s probably not true, is it?) after his Norwich side have made a dream start to life in the big league, sitting pretty in ninth place on 11 points, just three off their stuttering opponents on Saturday.
What’s more, the Canaries’ start has been achieved in the same swashbuckling style that served them so well in last year’s Championship – only the lack of a consistent goalscorer has held back their progress this term.
Despite this, they have failed to score just twice this year – at home to West Brom and away to Manchester United – and were desperately unlucky to draw a blank in both games.
Having scored at Wigan and Chelsea and won at Bolton, it is clear Lambert sets his side up away from home as he does at Carrow Road.
This could spell danger for Liverpool. As I wrote last week, Liverpool are struggling to keep clean sheets and haven’t kept one in the league at Anfield in four matches, which include games against Sunderland, Bolton and Wolves.
On paper, you would think that a promoted team visiting would be the perfect place to start, but Anfield will hold no fear for Lambert (who will be managing in the Premier League next year whether it’s with Norwich or not) and at some incredibly tasty prices, I think Norwich can score on Saturday, especially given how they played at Old Trafford a couple of weeks ago.
No Norwich striker has scored more than once this term – I feel Steve Morison, Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson are Championship level players – so I’ll be looking beyond them but Antony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan at 20/1 and 16/1 to score first look far too big for me.
Hoolahan (9/2 anytime) scored against Wigan on the opening day and on his day is a delightful player who can make things happen, whereas Pilkington – a huge 11/2 to score anytime – has three goals from midfield to his name already, two of which were first goals in Norwich wins. He should have scored at Old Trafford, too, and at those prices he has to be worth a play.
As for Liverpool, finding value is difficult. Kenny Dalglish’s side have scored just 11 goals in eight games – Norwich have ten – and nobody other than Luis Suarez has more than one league goal. With three Liverpool players odds on to score anytime (Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll) and possible starter Dirk Kuyt just 6/5, there are slim pickings with the usual suspects.
Charlie Adam looks as though his pickings are never slim, but at 13/2 to score first (8/5 anytime) he may represent some value. Adam had his best game in a Liverpool shirt against Manchester United last week, has obvious goalscoring potential and, let’s face it, if he is unable to contribute significantly against promoted teams at home, then Liverpool are going to be in trouble this year.
Suarez is rightfully 3/1 favourite to score first, but it hardly takes a leap of imagination to tip him. He is 7/10 to score anytime.
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