David Hannant: Could this side be the unluckiest Norwich City team ever?
PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 July 2020
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There is, unfortunately, no sugar coating how dour things have been since ‘football’ returned after the long lockdown break.
City’s unwanted run of results speaks for itself and does not make for pleasant reading.
We also all knew that this young and talented squad had it in them to be history-makers; after all, last season they equalled the club’s greatest ever points tally and did so playing beautiful football.
Therefore, had you put it to me at the start of the season that they would become history-makers again, for all the wrong reasons, namely becoming the first City side ever to lose nine consecutive competitive games, I would never have believed you.
Alas, Tuesday’s drab 1-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea confirms that depressing piece of history.
Even though we’ve been staring down the barrel of relegation, it still hurt, even if there was a little inkling of sweet release too.
This is the sixth time in my lifetime I have seen the club relegated, and it doesn’t get any easier to take.
The hurt is always still there and there are always people there to rub salt in the wounds. For example, a good friend of mine, who - I might add - supports League Two Cheltenham Town, took great pleasure in digging out an historic WhatsApp message in which I predicted City would finish a fairly comfortable 12th in the league. The same Cheltenham Town that threw away a two-goal away lead in their play-off semi-final this season, by the way.
In the same dug-out message I also described last season’s crop as the best Norwich team I had ever seen - and I stand by that.
So is the gulf between the Premier League and the Championship really so great that a team that so gleefully waltzed to the title can struggle so much in the top flight - when Sheffield United adapted so well?
Obviously there are many, many reasons things haven’t worked out quite so well for us as they have for the plucky Blades – as presumably they will now forever be known – and the simple answer is we just haven’t been good enough, particularly since non-football returned.
However, I’m going to also put another chip on the table by way of explaining it – and that is purely we have done something to seriously pee off Lady Luck.
Now, before you either slam down your paper with rage or close the website, depending on how you have chosen to take in this piece, I’m in no way saying the only reason we have been doomed to the drop is bad luck.
As the old saying goes, you do make your own luck. However, at the same time I’m struggling to remember a season where we have had such a disproportionate amount of bad luck in one term.
Let’s start with injuries – not only the number of them, but the timing and where on the field they have occurred.
Now, injuries are obviously a part of the game and will always happen, but how can it be anything other than sheer wretched luck to not once have had a full set of centre-backs to select from – not once?
Even with the long lay-off, which we all thought would give us the run-in with a fresh bill of health, we didn’t have every defender fit and raring to go.
I genuinely feel the number of injuries early doors killed off any chance of building on the momentum of the Championship glory, in the same way Sheffield United were able to.
And then there’s the fact that only Manchester City have hit the woodwork more times than us – presumably out of a far, far greater number of attempts.
Some may say hitting the post or bar is poor finishing, but clearly there’s also an element of bad luck involved too, especially given ricochets can go one of two ways - out or in - and 16 times out of 16 they bounced out for us.
Funnily enough, had every one of those strikes gone in, we would be sitting in 17th right now.
But the bad luck doesn’t seem to stop there. How many times this season have we seen bobbles and deflections land in the perfect spot for the opposition to score? Too many to count, sadly.
You only have to look as far as the two games against Spurs to see how we’ve presumably got Lady Luck’s knickers in a twist.
I’m sure we’ll be talking about Teemu Pukki’s goal in the first leg for generations: it was not offside, only a complete moron could rule it as being so, but apparently that’s what we had in charge of the VAR that day.
And then away, Heung-min Son’s late winner came from the biggest of bobbles, which could have fallen anywhere, but happened to fall right on his noggin.
So, yes, we have quite clearly not been good enough, but I’d also argue there has never been an unluckier City side than this one.