It was undoubtedly the shock result of the weekend. Whilst Arsenal haven’t always been dominant in their matches this year, they were expected to have more than enough for Norwich. The Canaries had shipped nine goals in their previous two games, including a 5-2 home drubbing by Liverpool. Their 1-0 win on Saturday evening was unexpected, but what shouldn’t have been a surprise was Grant Holt’s name appearing on the scoresheet.
The striker came close to a move in the summer, but his transfer request was rejected by Norwich, and he ended up signing a new contract. Whilst he doesn’t perhaps have the look and style of a top striker, his record against the biggest sides in the league is enviable, especially considering he has achieved it whilst playing for a side routinely getting battered.
Of last years top seven, Holt has only failed to score against Spurs (who Norwich have done very well against anyway) and Manchester City. He has scored in two separate matches against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, a brace against Newcastle, and one against Manchester United. His last three league games this season have seen him score at Stamford Bridge to give his side a shock lead they squandered impressively, a late consolation goal against Liverpool, and now finally the winner against Arsenal.
Last season Holt ended up with fifteen league goals, with Norwich’s attacking outlook under Paul Lambert giving plenty of opportunities. His form was such that there were many fans clamouring for him to be part of the England squad for Euro 2012. This year Holt will be looking to get the goals in what is attempting to be a tighter Norwich unit under Chris Hughton. So far he looks no less able to score in the system, and with his proven ability to pierce the most expensive and talented defences in the league, he gives Norwich a chance in every game even when on the back foot.
Holt can barely take a touch without being described as a traditional English striker, but he fully embraces that role. He isn’t a flat track bully, and the motivation of the big match clearly brings out the best in him. We probably won’t ever see how he could perform playing at a top team, but hopefully we will carry on seeing how well he performs playing against them for a while yet.
image: © joncandy