Hughton’s Norwich City feel the full force of London title rivals
Against Chelsea it was Redmond for Snodgrass, and 1-1 became 3-1 to the Blues. At the Emirates it was Redmond for Pilkington and Hoolahan for Tettey, and Arsenal's 2-1 lead became 4-1.
October 21st, 2013
Sensing a possible home win against Mourinho’s men, Hughton – often criticised for sitting on a point – went for it with an attacking substitution only to see Hazard and Willian claim all three points for the visitors. On Saturday at Arsenal, Redmond and Hoolahan were thrown on in an attempt to salvage a point, only to see Ramsey and Ozil kill the game off for the Gunners.
In the case of the Norwich City boss, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, but even the most optimistic of City fans would have predicted little return from games against Chelsea and Arsenal. Wenger’s team are currently the best in the country by a mile, and their first on Saturday – with a pinball one-two between Giroud and goalscorer Wilshere – is one of the best goals you will see this season. But the performance from the boys in yellow and green in both games was encouraging, and a vast improvement on displays at Hull and Spurs earlier in the season.
A major factor in these improvements on the pitch is down to Hughton’s discovering his best central midfield three – Alex Tettey giving Jonny Howson licence to roam (which he has admitted he has always wanted) along with the stand-out player of the season thus far, Leroy Fer. But whilst many top flight sides operate a similar lone striker tactic that Hughton favours, the quality of service to the front man is poor. Of the six league goals Norwich have scored this season, only one has come from a striker – Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s header against Everton. With the Dutchman still seemingly adjusting to the English game perhaps it’s time to turn to £5m man Gary Hooper.
Like many clubs in the Premier League, Norwich City’s season is not going to be defined by the games against the top six – although any point is a bonus – it’s the visit of former Canary Malky Mackay’s Cardiff this weekend that is of more importance, with visits from West Ham and Crystal Palace following. The minimum from those three games should be seven points. Even at this early stage in the season Palace and Sunderland are doing their best to cut themselves adrift at the bottom, so it’s vital that the Canaries don’t join them. Beat Cardiff and you leapfrog them and others to move into mid-table. But fail to pick up three points against the Bluebirds and some serious questions regarding the Hughton regime will start to surface.
With Norwich City’s last four games of the season against what will inevitably be four of the top five sides – Liverpool H, Man Utd A (okay, maybe not four of the top five) Chelsea A and Arsenal at home on the final day of the season – a repeat of last season’s ten-game unbeaten run between now and then wouldn’t go amiss if Norwich City, who recently declared themselves debt-free, are to avoid being one of the richest sides in the Championship.