After a poor start to the season, Norwich have started to move up the table and are now 14th, five points above the relegation zone. They spent a lot of money in the summer (around £25m) which raised expectations at Carrow Road, but their squad is still lacking in a few areas. It was perhaps unfair to expect too much from Norwich this season, a mid table position is the best they can hope for, they don’t have enough quality to get into the top half. Chris Hughton has been under pressure on a few occasions this season, in particular following the 7-0 defeat at Manchester City and the 5-1 loss at Anfield, but a club like Norwich will always be on the wrong end of some hammerings. These matches are certainly not reasons to sack a manager, Norwich resisted giving Hughton the boot and they are now reaping the rewards that come with loyalty.
Hughton has become a bit more bold in recent weeks as he has switched from the 4-5-1 he preferred in the early part of the season to a 4-4-2 which has brought Norwich success. The new formation is built around the all action midfield displays of Leroy Fer and the developing strike partnership of Gary Hooper and Johan Elmander. Since the Manchester City match, Norwich have picked up 10 points from 6 matches, with Hooper scoring four times in this run. Their main problem at the start of the season was that they weren’t creating many chances for their strikers, but the change in formation has fixed that and Hooper is starting to make his mark on the Premier League. Nathan Redmond has also played a huge part in Norwich’s climb up the table with his direct running and creativity. The former Birmingham man creates a clear cut chance every 186 minutes which is the third best in the league.
Fer has scored 3 goals so far this season and he has been without doubt the most consistent player in the Canaries team, he even looked decent during the awful start to the season. He has been used as a makeshift winger recently in the absence of the likes of Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington, but he has given his best performances in the centre of the park. In the matches against West Ham and Newcastle, he was exceptional, scoring a goal in each match and showing incredible work rate throughout. He has created 15 chances including one assist, showing he can create. Fer is a capable dribbler as he has been successful with 23 from 32 attempted dribbles. His bursts from midfield will cause any team problems. His pass completion of 83.51% is also very good in a side like Norwich who aren’t renowned for their passing style. His tackle success of 74% from 50 tackles show his capabilities as a box to box midfielder. The Dutchman has shown himself to have the potential to become a really good central midfielder, I’d expect him to move on to a bigger club within two years.
Norwich have started to shore up their defence in the last few weeks. They have conceded nine goals in their last six matches, which is quite good considering five of those came against a Luis Suarez inspired Liverpool. They have kept two clean sheets over this period as well which will go a long way to boost their confidence. It’s odd that the change to a more attacking system can help improve a defence, but the change has given the side more balance and it allows them to keep the ball more in attacking areas which leads to less work for the defence.
The Canaries now have a platform to push on and build a substantial points gap between them and the relegation zone. If they aren’t careful they could be dragged back into it, but their team does appear to be more balanced than many of the others in the bottom half. They also have a few sources of real quality in Fer, Hooper, Redmond and Ricky van Wolfswinkel if they can get him firing, which is something most sides in the relegation fight lack. It’s refreshing to see a side do well after sticking with their manager when they could easily have sacked him. I think Norwich should secure a mid table place comfortably this season. After the start they had, that would represent a really good season for the Canaries.