The mood music must change for Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's willingness to accept their fate away from the home in the Premier League is a depressing trend.
The Canaries' latest offering in the north-east offered little hope of arresting a decline which set in on Humberside and has now deepened in recent times.
That merited success at Stoke was merely the exception to the general rule. Norwich have now lost half the total number of league games they did on the road during Hughton's entire first season of league combat with autumn barely giving way to winter; a debilitating, demoralising sequence which places greater stress on City's enduring ability to harvest points at Carrow Road.
Crystal Palace falls into the same category as West Ham before the international break now because there is no available evidence to suggest pending trips to Anfield and the Hawthorns will provide any respite.
City take one step forward and then slump back with each fresh excursion away from Norfolk. Any momentum mustered on home soil is being frittered away through an abdication of defensive responsibility and any semblance of the resolution or will to resist that was the hallmark of Hughton's debut campaign.
Norwich's summer spending was designed to address deficiencies in forward areas but a welcome commitment to evolve the squad that had been good enough to secure two mid-table Premier League finishes has seemingly exposed a recurring brittleness. It is not good enough to suggest they have faced superior opponents. That does not excuse the lack of conviction or the absence of any genuine leadership, with the odd notable exception. Few would argue trips to Arsenal or Manchester City or even a Newcastle side buoyed by recent wins over Chelsea and Tottenham and with one of the best strikers in the division on current form will always prove hellishly difficult obstacles for the Canaries to overcome. But there is a world of difference between the committed approach that typified their best awaydays last season under Hughton's guidance and the deferential manner they have operated for the majority of this fresh campaign.
Norwich deserved more for their collective efforts at Arsenal before the Gunners cut loose with surgical precision in the final quarter, but that increasingly appears brief respite to the mediocrity.
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The simplicity of both Newcastle's first half goals at St James' Park coupled with the scale of the previous away defeat at the Etihad fuel the belief Norwich's play is afflicted by an endemic lack of urgency and lapses in concentration.
City markedly improved after half-time against the Magpies, they could hardly regress much further, and allied to a noticeable drop in intensity from the hosts may have earned some tangible reward. But that would simply mask the deficiencies Hughton and his coaching staff must address.
Norwich's fan base deserve more than travelling to all parts of the country to watch their team surrender the initiative and the points with limited resistance. They do not advocate Norwich pour forward from the first minute with a reckless abandon that leaves them susceptible to opponents with the quality to proft from such ambition, much in the way Arsenal cashed in when City were forced to chase a losing cause.
Yet there must surely be a better trade-off than the Canaries have mustered to this juncture when the only guarantee appears to be Norwich will succumb and the only imponderable is by how many.
Hughton's cause is not helped by a debilitating roll call of injuries that may force the club's hand in the upcoming trading window. Alex Tettey proved himself an essential component in that landmark league win in the Potteries after his manager's astute re-deployment in a screening role that extracts the optimum from the Norwegian and grants both Jonny Howson and Leroy Fer licence to wreck havoc in advanced areas of the pitch.
Nor is the Norwich boss wrong when he points out the Canaries are part of a large constituency right across the Premier League who will always find it more difficult to succeed away from comfortable surroundings, but neither of those mitigating forces explain the anaemic efforts in Manchester and now Newcastle.
Pardew's side finished on the back foot with the home crowd baying for the final whistle but until Fer rose majestically to power a header past his Dutch international colleague Tim Krul the Magpies were in cruise control. City will point to isolated moments of endeavour prior to the interval and a sustained period after the break but that merely captures the frustrations felt by those in attendance high up in the rafters.
Even a squad ravaged by injury proved itself capable of greater productivity on the road in direct contrast to drifting aimlessly through another away game with no apparent conviction or belief to suggest they can find an alternative outcome.
Hughton talks in measured tones about the balances when it comes to his team selection and outlook but one win and five defeats in the Premier League so far on their grand tour around the country is an imbalance he will know better than anyone must be rectified.