Norwich are now on a nine match unbeaten run (in all competitions) and since they’re win against Arsenal, Carrow Road has been an extremely tough place to visit. They are through to the Capital One Cup Quarter-Final, which is a testament to the claim that Chris Hughton’s men are capable of achieving something this season. A top 10 finish is by no means out of the question, providing they keep defending they way they are at the moment. It is interesting to note that Norwich have conceded just as many goals as League leaders, Manchester United. Since they’re 4-1 loss to Chelsea in early October, they have only conceded four goals in the League. The likes of Sebastian Bassong, Javier Garrido and Michael Turner have been consistent at the back and have showed strength and determination to maintain leads against very strong opposition. Bassong has even contributed with two goals in the past three games.
Despite losing manager Paul Lambert to Villa it appears that Norwich are not suffering from ‘Second Season Syndrome,’ having been reshaped and re-invigorated under Houghton. With 19 points already and in a comfortable league position it looks incredibly likely that they will avoid a relegation battle. Many clubs have suffered from this syndrome, most notably Reading (2007-08) and Hull City (2009-10). Others have been dubbed as a ‘Yo Yo Club’ failing to stay in the top flight and simply going back down immediately, which resulted in a pattern. The team that comes to mind is West Brom, as well as Birmingham City. West Brom are now flying in the league whilst Wigan have also done incredibly well to sustain their Premier League status. If Norwich continue to perform under Houghton, they can also replicate such success.
Norwich struggled with the departure of Paul Lambert, failing to register a win in their first eight League games this season, but the Arsenal game was the turning point in their season. Many questioned whether Chris Hughton was the right man for the job, but surely after beating United, Arsenal and Spurs, all critics have been silenced. One issue that is plaguing the club is a relative lack of goals. Grant Holt is the hero of this Norfolk club, but has only scored 18 League goals since they returned to the Premiership last summer. In addition, he has only scored one goal during this current unbeaten run. Nonetheless, he is a good leader and his physical presence leading the line is about more than just scoring goals. As long as the club keep clean sheets scoring goals it not as much of an issue with three of their nine unbeaten games have been 1-0 victories, as well as a 0-0 draw with Reading.
If this becomes a trend, they will find it difficult to creep into that top ten. They need to start scoring goals regularly. As pointed out earlier, the key to their success of late has been the back four. Just yesterday they dominated against a struggling Sunderland side. There were improvements up front, but it is now time to build upon those improvements. If the likes of Pilkington and Holt start scoring regularly, their solid defending won’t be the only thing that gives them plaudits. Norwich’s defensively solidity, which has led to their success can be contrasted with QPR, Southampton and Reading who seemingly concede goals at will. Perhaps a more cautious approach is the way forward for teams wanting to avoid relegation battles.