Momentum is the prize on offer for Norwich City as Chelsea come to town
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There is a Boxing Day question for Norwich City to answer – is it easier to maintain momentum, or regain it?
The Canaries have been flying for two and a half months, doing little wrong and plenty right. From 19th in the Premier League table and just three points to their name after defeat at Chelsea on October 6, they face the Blues for the return fixture in the top-flight’s top 10 and 10 points clear of the bottom three.
But no one needs to be told how quickly things can change in football.
Saturday’s defeat to West Brom was City’s first in 11 matches but with a Carrow Road visit from the European champions followed by the defending Premier League champions three days later, it would not take an unexpected series of results to see Norwich head to Upton Park on New Year’s Day off the back of three straight defeats.
Yes, Chris Hughton’s side did an excellent job of maintaining their wonderful momentum. Now against the toughest of opponents, it is all about regaining it.
“Which is easier? I’ll let you know after the next two games,” smiled Hughton. “If you are in a good run of games then things seem to go a little bit more for you because that is the momentum, and I think everybody will say that sometimes you will pick up the odd good result where it’s just about playing the same team, momentum, good habits and that little bit of rub of the green sometimes that goes for you.
“But there is also a massive part of the game which is reaction.
“We had a wonderful reaction after some poor defeats earlier in the season and we’re on the back of a loss at the moment, so the changing room after Saturday wasn’t a particularly happy place and rightly so, because it was a game that wasn’t one of our better performances in the run we’ve been having.
“We certainly felt we deserved to get a draw out of the game. It’s now an opportunity to bounce back into winning ways – but we certainly must not underestimate what a point can mean. I think some people do that. A point in this league is valuable.”
Christmas means only one thing in English football: games – and a lot of them. City are in the middle of a run of five in 15 days and while traditionalists will love the festive backlog, Chris Hughton doesn’t appear to be on their side.
“I would have it a different way, yes – I certainly wouldn’t have a winter break but I would try to pull maybe one of the games out of the Christmas period,” admitted Hughton.
“I think it is one we have got used to regarding the Boxing Day, which is very much set in tradition. But if I look at the bulk of games that we have I would certainly look to pull maybe one of the games out.
“Probably the saving grace is that it is the same for everyone. If you are going through a run of four games in such a short period of time and you are playing more games than everybody else or you have got to television game that is thrown in (it’s different).”
Arguably City’s Boxing Day opponents have the squad to cope with any amount of games – even with a trip to Japan in the middle. Whether they can claw back the gap to be reconsidered title contenders this season, Hughton isn’t sure. But he does expect Rafa Benitez win over the dissenting Chelsea fans still lamenting the departure of Robbie di Matteo.
“The only way in any job you win over people is by getting results and he has great options to be able to get those results,” added Hughton.
“At the moment they are on very much of a high and he will certainly be judged on that.”