Norwich City hopes and writing off Wigan
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You can’t argue with international breaks for what they do give – a little bit of time for reflection.
• So Russell Martin pulls out of the Scotland squad. Whether down to precaution or necessity is a moot point; it’s a real shame for the player. Craig Levein clearly wanted to see him again, but City can ill afford to lose anyone else from a defensive line that is starting to crack a little.
• Fewer things were more predictable at the weekend than Darren Bent being a bit too good for City. His post-match quotes stuck in the throat a bit too: “It is similar to when Blackpool first came up and they had a go; Norwich are the same and did themselves credit, but we were just too good.” Hope not…
• Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers was delighted his side got clapped off by the home fans at Anfield. It doesn’t happen often, he said. Only that’s twice in two Reds home games, Brendan. So it does really.
• The whole wishing Southampton bad really isn’t going well. Top of the Championship and, it has to be said, cruising. Good for them and all that (ahem)…
That goes especially for the current break, where we see meaningless friendlies and only the odd slice of play-off excitement to grab attention.
In fact, given the Euro 2012 play-off draw is seeded, any shock will not only be a serious surprise but mess with Uefa’s grand plan.
Anyway, back to domestic issues – so where are we? Well, 11 games in is the answer – or 29 per cent of the season. Almost a third. And yes, it is racing away.
By this time, there is no doubt the Premier League table is taking shape – leaving only the odd team occupying the infamous false position. This time last season, Liverpool were 16th with three wins and 12 points – they went on to finish sixth with 58.
After 11 games Bolton sat fifth on 15 points, before finishing 14th – maybe one for Newcastle United fans to consider, that.
What that table from 12 months ago should do – along with Saturday’s defeat at Aston Villa – is quell anyone in these parts getting carried away at City’s early season progress.
With the top seven seemingly increasing their gap from the rest, anywhere from eighth downwards could reasonably be on offer for a top-flight team good enough to take advantage.
And at the bottom of that lot it is already promising to be as close as last season’s relegation free-for-all – maybe with the exception of Wigan.
It may be harsh to write off a side so early, but the Latics are two points worse off than West Ham after 11 games in 2010 and already look doomed – a statement less risky than Alan Hansen’s September assertion that both West Brom and Fulham will have no relegation worries this season.
Last season’s lowest scorers by some distance were relegated – Birmingham City. Stoke, Wigan and the Baggies are all yet to reach double figures this term.
Conceding the most doesn’t help either: West Ham last season; currently Bolton this.
So how about the Canaries?
First quarter performance was 13 points from 10 games – keep that rate of points accumulation and the Canaries will survive.
And that remains the key. Blackpool had 14 points from their first 11 fixtures last season; Burnley 15 the season before. Neither maintained those hauls enough to avoid the Championship reckoning come May.
Norwich’s home form is reasonable – eight points and one defeat from five: Stoke, West Brom, Sunderland, Swansea and Blackburn. Hardly big-hitters, admittedly. Away from home City have one win in six – but that includes trips to Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Villa. Four points came in the remaining two.
So taking it a quarter at a time, with Villa gone, 12 points – say three wins, three draws – from the next nine games is the idea. Have a look at the fixture list.
And then comes January – when the really hard work starts…