Norwich City restarted their 2019/20 Premier League campaign with an emphatic defeat at the hands of mid-table Southampton. As they attempt to stave off relegation, the Canaries would have hoped the break in play means a change of fortunes. What seemed a near-impossible task anyway, will now surely become a great escape.
Manager Daniel Farke would have been wise to have thrown the form book out the window whilst being stuck at home. One win in their last seven matches isn’t exactly miracle material, however, are they now doomed or is there still hope the Canaries can stay up at the first time of asking.
Can Norwich Survive Relegation: The Great Escape?
It may not be exactly uncharted territory, plenty of teams before them have been in their position and worse at this stage. Back in 2006/7 Alan Curbishly’s West Ham team won six of their remaining eight matches in order to avoid the dreaded drop. Helped by the goals of controversial signing Carlos Tevez, the Hammers stayed up at the expense of Sheffield United.
Wigan achieved the same feat in 2011/12 when Roberto Martinez led his men seven points clear of relegation having been doomed going into the run in. Surprise victories over Arsenal and Manchester United helping the cause. More recently Sunderland and Leicester have both pulled off Houdini-esque escapes, the latter going on to win the Premier League the following season. Could Norwich do the same?
While it’s unlikely they will stay up, let alone win the league next season, no fat lady has begun her song yet. Norwich could take inspiration from some survival stories that have gone before.
Why Are They Bottom?
In recent years promoted clubs have tried different ways of building a squad fit to stay in the top flight. Recently Fulham proved there was no exact science to survival when they were relegated at the first time of asking after spending in excess of £100 million. However, Norwich truthfully didn’t spend enough money to have a comfortable season. The squad is largely identical to the one that earned promotion.
Any purchases that were made came mostly from lower leagues for relatively small fees or from lesser-known foreign clubs. A tactic that may backfire on them should they be relegated.
A squad lacking in depth can ill-afford an abundance of injuries, unfortunately for Norwich, they have had little luck in that department. Picking up numerous injuries to key players, long term defensive losses have primarily hurt their survival hopes.
Currently seven points from safety with eight matches remaining, it is not out of the realms of possibility Norwich could pull off a comeback and survive. The whole league has seen what they are capable of on their day, a shock 3-2 win over Manchester City earlier in the campaign made everybody take notice.
If they are to achieve the unlikely striker Teemu Pukki will have to recapture his early-season form. The Finnish striker has struggled of late and only has two goals since the turn of the year, this will need to improve if Norwich are to stand a chance.
Two plus points from the season so far have been the performances of Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia. The creative midfielders have impressed in a struggling side and the club may face a battle to hold on to them should they fall to the Championship.
When you look at the remaining fixtures and the points gap it’s easy to understand why Norwich are overwhelming favourites for the drop with the bookmakers, a tough run in which culminates with a trip to the Etihad to face a revenge-seeking City side.
Where Are You?
Despite having five of the nine remaining fixtures at home there will be no crowd to call on, all matches will be completed behind closed doors. Making Deliah Smith’s cries of ‘where are you’ and ‘let’s be having you’ less poignant and more literal.
Daniel Farke’s men will highlight some potential proverbial ‘six-pointers’, home ties with Brighton and West Ham could be pivotal to their chances. Norwich also make the trip to another side facing the threat of relegation; Watford who were bottom at Christmas, an omen normally regarded as an inevitability for relegation.
After a disappointing return to action, there is no doubt Norwich can afford no more slip-ups. With just five wins to this point all season, they now require the same amount of wins from the remaining matches. Points are at a premium at this stage of the season and they can’t afford to drop many more.