Two of the lowest scoring teams in the Premier League meet on Sunday (4pm GMT) when Norwich City welcome Sunderland to Carrow Road.
Norwich failed to win in their first seven matches of the season but are now unbeaten in seven, a run that has included home victories over Arsenal and Manchester United.
The Canaries have 16 points to their credit from three wins, seven draws and four defeats. They are currently 13th in the Premier League, one place lower than they finished last season under Paul Lambert.
New manager Chris Hughton took a little time to settle in, but now looks well ensconced at Carrow Road. He may not be as tactically chameleonic as Lambert, but his methods are certainly getting results, especially since his side have tightened up defensively.
Norwich conceded 17 times in the first seven matches of the season, including five goal thrashings by Fulham and Liverpool. Defenders were being dragged out of position and teams with pace and good movement in the final third were finding it far too easy to penetrate them.
That changed following the 1-0 win over Arsenal in mid-October, the first of a run of seven matches in which Norwich have conceded just three times. New signings Javier Garrido and Sebastian Bassong have begun to look far more at home alongside their more established colleagues and Norwich’s defence has been much better organised than it was previously.
This new defensive solidity has coincided with the club’s recent unbeaten run. Three clean sheets have helped them to three consecutive home victories, while four successive away draws have been achieved by never conceding more than once in any given match.
Norwich are struggling to find the back of the net, however, having only scored more than once in a match on one occasion so far this season. They have managed less than a goal per match on average and having improved the defence, the attack is likely to be Hughton’s next focus.
Sunderland, too, have struggled to score on a regular basis this season. Their haul of 12 is the third worst in the division and just one better than the 11 managed by their hosts on Sunday. The Black Cats have failed to score on five separate occasions, the most recent of which was Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at home to Queen’s Park Rangers.
In that match Sunderland were ponderous, incoherent and shorn of ideas or invention. They were a team lacking in confidence and quickly wilted in face of the frustrated groans of the Stadium of Light faithful. The problem is not simply that Sunderland are failing to score, it is that they are failing to create enough chances to do so.
On average, Sunderland take a league-lowest 10.2 shots per match and manage a pitiful 2.8 shots on target per match, again the lowest number in the division. They have one of the better conversion rates of shots on target to goals (35.71%), but are simply not getting into enough scoring positions to improve their goal tally.
Primary striker Steven Fletcher has generally put away chances when they come his way, but manager Martin O’Neill must get more from his wide players and second striker Stephane Sessegnon. Sessegnon has at least started to show signs of life in recent weeks, scoring a cracking goal against Fulham and again against West Brom, but needs to perform on a more consistent basis – something that he has rarely done in his career.
This chronic lack of goals has contributed to a run of two wins in Sunderland’s last 21 Premier League matches, a run stretching back to March 2012. Such poor form currently sees them 16th in the table, just a point above the relegation zone, albeit with a game in hand on those around them.
Norwich v Sunderland Betting Tips Verdict
Norwich have been very good defensively in recent weeks and against a uninspiring Sunderland attack will be fairly confident of shutting out their opponents and sneaking the goal they will need to secure all three points.
The Canaries have won each of their last three home matches by a score of 1-0 and there is decent value in backing them to do so again.