Norwich City boss hails Arsene Wenger’s ‘extraordinary’ impact on the English game
Chris Hughton was an international class defender of repute in his own playing days. The Norwich City manager is acutely aware just what it will take to prevent Arsenal ruthlessly exposing any fresh traces of defensive frailty within the Canaries' ranks at Carrow Road this evening.
City staggered into the international shut down on the back of consecutive drubbings against Liverpool and Chelsea, notable as much for individual errors as wonderful artistry from the opposition. Hughton accepts the mood music has to change in a bid to ignite the club's faltering Premier League season.
'You can chop and change but you need the consistency as well,' he said. 'The players are very receptive to what we want and the mood around the place is good. I would have to say that. There are two trains of thought regarding the amount of goals we have conceded, but we also have to take on board we have played top quality opposition.
'There were a lot of plusses in the last game. We were disappointed with the last goal we conceded at Chelsea but it was certainly a better second half performance and we also started the game well. That has to be our outlook.
'We are going to have down days and we need to bounce back and carry a threat and give a good Arsenal side more competition than perhaps we have done in the last two games.'
Hughton insists it is too simplistic to try and hide behind the struggles seemingly inherent in attempting to replicate their initial Premier League success last season.
'That is something we all knew about and I was the same when I took this job. This league is tougher than last season. The teams coming up now are better equipped to stay in the division,' he said.
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'If you are a team that has been there for two or three seasons you would like to think you are even better equipped. It is about going on a run to give us a comfort zone. We have to remember we are seven games into a season. There are a group of teams down there with us so we need to go on a run at some stage to give us the points we need.
'We have to get back to where we were two games ago. If we look at our season in the league we have had seven games and three of those have been very disappointing, where we have conceded goals. In the middle of that we had four very good performances. We needed to get our points in those games and they are all games we could have got maximum points and turned draws into wins.'
Hughton may well get the uplifting response from his players he expects after a fortnight out of the firing line, but Arsenal present a formidable obstacle.
'We know we are up against a wonderful team who have added already to what was a very good squad,' he said. 'Defensively, they have started the season very well and they are on the back of a good result at West Ham. We certainly know the qualities they have but we have to have our game plan on the day and make it as difficult as we can.
'Are they title contenders? Yes. Very much so. They have added some real quality and in (Santi) Carzola they have a player who has started the season fabulously well and who is a real threat for them.
'I think we expected them to be there or thereabouts and perhaps with the signings they have made, even more so. These tests don't come any bigger.
'Not only are they a top team but they are a top team in form. They have a great balance between youth and experience in the squad.'
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has long been feted for his impact on the English game and Hughton believes the Frenchman's impact should not be over-stated.
'They have a wonderful manager who keeps re-inventing the team and has done in all the time he has been there,' said Hughton. 'I know him and have been involved in games against him as well as a manager and I very much appreciate the job he has done and how long he has been there. When you look at the teams he has built, it is extraordinary. He is an incredibly good and big football man. I don't think it would be an understatement to say he revolutionised the English game.
'The best testament you can pay to him is the individual players who have worked with him and spoken so well about how he put another two or three seasons at the top level on their careers. In this day and age to be managing a club as long as he has is remarkable, as of course with Sir Alex (Ferguson).'
Hughton insists the adaptability of those two modern-day icons in his profession is what sets them apart from the rest.
'What they have both continued to do is almost make different teams and re-invent themselves,' he said. 'When you lose a (Robin) van Persie that is a massive player to lose. Bringing in a Cazorla has altered slightly how they play, but he has been able to do that.
'Whenever he has lost the big players he has brought in others and continued the same quality. I'm quite sure if they had the choice they would have preferred to keep van Persie, but they have changed the centre forward option with (Olivier) Giroud, who perhaps didn't start so well but played well against West Ham and scored midweek for France and allied to that defensively, they have started very, very well.'