Magic of Wes Hoolahan can help to keep Norwich City in the Premier League
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As Norwich City prepare to battle for survival David Freezer assesses the key role Wes Hoolahan can play.
Wes Hoolahan has seen it all during his eight seasons at Norwich City – but his best moments in a yellow and green jersey could be yet to come.
The Irish playmaker has only featured as a substitute in the Canaries' past two matches, keeping his place on the bench for the duration of a 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace and coming on in the 59th minute of last Saturday's damaging 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland.
The 33-year-old has featured regularly this season, making 36 appearances in total for club and country so far, creating eight of City's 35 league goals – 25 per cent.
After the talisman and Nathan Redmond started on the bench against Sunderland, some City fans accused manager Alex Neil of a conservative approach to a match which was vital to the club's chances of avoiding relegation.
Redmond hit the post and looked lively after coming on at half-time and Hoolahan was unable to spark a comeback after being introduced with the Black Cats already leading 2-0 at Carrow Road.
The statistics stack up in favour of starting the club's longest serving current player in the crucial final four matches of the Premier League campaigns though.
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Of the 22 league games the Republic of Ireland international has started this season the Canaries have a win percentage of 27pc, as opposed to 17pc in the games he has either been a substitute or not involved in.
They also score more goals, with an average of 1.2 per game with Wes and 0.7 without.
Sometimes the slight attacker's style has seen him considered by some as a defensive risk, due to his skill and tricks bringing an increased risk of losing possession, but again the stats back Hoolahan.
Norwich have lost 46pc of the league games he has started this season but 75pc of those he has not.
Add to that an average of 1.6 goals conceded in the games the former Blackpool man has started, when compared to 2.1 conceded in the games he has been left out of the starting XI, and again the figures reflect well on the City veteran.
In total Hoolahan has started six of City's eight wins this season and City have claimed 24 points from the games he has started, but just seven without him.
When his international form is added into the mix as well – as he looks an almost certain starter for Republic boss Martin O'Neill at this summer's European Championships in France – it is difficult to make a case for the midfield maestro not being a certain starter.
The Canaries are now in a situation where they are likely to be in the relegation zone by the time they kick-off at Arsenal next Saturday, leaving them in need of goals and points, urgently.
If Hoolahan can reproduce some of the magic City fans have enjoyed from him over the years, he can well and truly cement his place as a Canaries legend.