Savvy has his say on whether Chris Hughton is doing the business at Carrow Road…
It is often said that football fans are fickle and often with good reason. On paper this is the most prolonged period of Premier League success the club has ever had – we have just signed a couple of Dutch internationals and broken our transfer record twice, off the back of finishing 11th in the league. On paper Chris Hughton was (and still is to a certain extent) the standout choice to manage this club. Yet, the crowds` reaction to Saturday`s defeat to Villa put together with the mood overall amongst the fans paints a different picture. Despite his relative success on paper, the fans are unhappy, they`re arguably not fully behind Hughton anymore and as one local (pro-Hughton) journalist put it “when you`ve lost the fans, it`s only a matter of time.”
So, are the fans simply being fickle – is it a case of “he`s just not Paul Lambert”? Or is there more to it? Is it time for a change?
Hughton`s approach is often cited as defensive or dull, but that is not the biggest issue, the biggest issues are the inflexibility and the tactical ineptness.
It goes right back to his first game in charge. Hope was high for the trip to Fulham back in August 2012, but a crushing 5-0 defeat in an unhappy hunting ground first set alarm bells ringing, followed shortly afterwards by a similarly abject (and perhaps flattering) 5-2 reverse at home to Liverpool. Hughton had the whole summer to prepare for that first month of football but as the season kicked off the side looked totally out of its depth and ready to lay down arms at the merest site of an opposing in-form striker.
A successful 10-game period aside, the rest of the season was a fairly forgettable affair of scrapped draws or embarrassingly one-sided defeats. There were some surprising highlights – a 4-3 win at Swansea and a late win against Everton being good examples, although if rumours are true, Chris was not a happy man with either of these performances.
In the winning run, Chris had found a way to compete in football matches with Wes playing behind Holt, but crucially if it didn`t work it was clear he had no idea what to do.
We all knew this Wes/Holt partnership worked, having seen it over the previous 3 seasons, but what we expected was for our football manager to know this when he joined (to know that Wes is not a left winger), and also to develop a plan B. However, he didn`t.
The run came to an end after Wigan at home in December 2012. In the 26 games since the Wigan win, we’ve got 23 points. In those 26 games, we have won only 5 times (Everton, Reading, West Brom, Man City and Southampton).
After the miserable trips to Hull and Spurs, many fans are questioning why they would ever travel to an away game again, after all we have only won twice away under Hughton, and we`ve only scored more than one goal on 2 occasions in the league.
After Saturday`s game, Jacob Steinberg in The Guardian wrote, “Norwich’s fans will have looked at an exciting Villa side and wondered why their team, which has been strengthened by the arrivals of Redmond, Leroy Fer, Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel, was so predictable.
“Unfortunately for Hughton, he will always be compared unfavourably to Lambert, who is hellbent on playing attacking football, tactically innovative, brave with his substitutions and inventive in the transfer market. In short, he is everything that Hughton, a safe pair of hands but a naturally cautious manager, is not.”
Another broadsheet journalist also added along the same lines, ‘Chris Hughton, who has overseen a period of what appears to be inescapable relegation form since December. Norwich have won only five of their last 26 Premier League matches and picked up 23 points in that time, as the manager increasingly looks to be out of his depth. That Ricky van Wolfswinkel has only managed one shot on target in the last four matches highlights the Canaries’ problem with providing effective service to the striker and that solving that particular puzzle remains Hughton’s priority as doubts begin to grow.’
At the time of writing, and with Sunderland having disposed of Paulo Di Canio, City are fourth favourites to be relegated, with Hughton the second favourite to leave his post. Roberto Di-Matteo is the standout choice for Sunderland and thus will only be available for so long.
So, can the nice Mr Hughton with his predictable and inflexible tendencies shake things up and turn things around? I wouldn`t bet on it.
David McNally, over to you.