Let’s hope the past few games have kick-started Norwich City’s season
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The statistics show Norwich City have won in the league just once in the past nine games. Just six points since the 3-1 victory against Bournemouth on September 12 and a record of nine goals scored and 16 conceded.
Yet I feel more confident now about City's chances of staying up than I possibly did at the start of that run.
To be fair, much of that optimism comes from the past four games, which may themselves have brought only four points, but did much to prove this is a league in which the Canaries belong.
Go back a few weeks and the 6-2 defeat to Newcastle, followed by the 1-0 loss to West Brom, had raised some serious questions about Alex Neil and his team.
The six-goal howler had left some wondering whether this side and its style of play was just too open for this league. Were City too naive, determined to stick with a style of play that may have worked fine in the Championship, but wasn't fit for purpose a step higher? Would we see a return to previous seasons' failures away from home when goal difference and confidence were destroyed by repeated hammerings?
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A week later, the drab loss to West Brom had many concerned that at home Norwich could easily be found out and neutered. It was only two games, but the momentum of last season had come crashing to a halt.
However, the last few games have shown that Neil and his men can be versatile and reshape the side accordingly.
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And hopefully that is starting to pay off.
Manchester City and Chelsea games may have brought defeats, but at least they did not bring capitulation in the manner we've seen before. They gave real hope City can take points from any team in this league, as was the case on Sunday.
Swansea was all about the result, and the style was designed to suit that. It may, however, have led some to wonder whether the new way of playing would be at the cost of being entertained.
Those concerns were diminished by the fare served up in last Sunday's engrossing battle against Arsenal, especially the second half.
It's no coincidence this upturn has come at a time when several players have started to shine in a City shirt – many of them having only recently been given the opportunity to do so.
At the back, Ryan Bennett has been what we always knew he was – a very talented centre back when able to string a run together in the team. If he stays fit for a lengthy period, this could be the kick-start his career badly needs. To the right, Andre Wisdom has shrugged off early-season jitters and no longer looks like a fish out of water. With increased confidence has become an ability and desire to bring more attacking intent to his game, but not at the cost of defensive duties.
Gary O'Neil gets better with every game and his fitness levels were impressive against Arsenal, especially considering how few 90 minute run-outs he's had recently.
But the real gem of the whole squad is of course Robbie Brady. Consistent, dynamic, fast and strong. Dare I say it, he's fast turning into City's own Gareth Bale. My early view that he is a top-six side player hasn't changed. In spite of Lewis Grabban's successful return there's still some work to be done with the strikers, not necessarily through any fault of their own.
It's time Neil settled on someone to have a prolonged run in the side and a chance to build up some momentum.
Whether that is the former wantaway striker, or one of the other attackers on the books, remains to be seen, but the competition for places in the squad currently looks much healthier than before.
Of course, this new-found confidence means nothing if it doesn't lead to points. The form of the last four games would probably secure safety should it continue, but one or two December wins would really get this season underway and clear Norwich from the chasing pack.
Striker should see this as fresh start
Some managers simply have an ability to get it right. After 40 minutes against Arsenal people around me were questioning Lewis Grabban's place in the starting line-up. His recent history meant patience was thinner than usual – then he goes and scores. Sagas like his happen in football. We probably don't hear about them all, so let's hope it can be put in the past, especially if this is the start of a run of games and goals.
Murphy twins spur the other on
It's fantastic to see both of the Murphy twins doing so well at their respective loan clubs. I remember speaking to a former coach at Carrow Road when Josh was in the first team and he predicted Jacob would actually go on to be a better player. He also commented on how one twin's rise would often motivate the other to improve. I wonder if we have a recall option? If so, could one of them yet play a part in this campaign?
The mystery of seat number 58
Can you help to solve the mystery of seat 58 in row H of area C of the Barclay – Lower Tier? It's the seat next to me and it hasn't been filled yet this season. Has someone renewed their season ticket and not remembered? Is it some form of protest? Perhaps it was something I said? It really is strange – but I'm certainly not complaining about the increased leg room.
Arsenal's soft centre exposed
Whenever I see Arsenal play I'm always struck by how in shape their players look. Yet, in spite of this, their every season is like football's version of Groundhog Day. A fantastic start, followed by a raft of injuries which then affects form and puts them out of the title race. It's surprising more questions haven't previously been asked as to why their players appear so fit, but are so physically fragile.