David Freezer: Buendia has provided the spark but City truly need something special now

It's been such a frustrating spell for Norwich City, in spite of Emi Buendia's quite superb form 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

It's been such a frustrating spell for Norwich City, in spite of Emi Buendia's quite superb form Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Norwich City must buck the trend if they are to salvage Premier League survival – but there are sources of inspiration to turn to in pursuit of a great escape.

In the past 10 seasons, just five teams have had 14 points or fewer after 21 games and all five have disappeared through the trapdoor to the Championship.

Clearly that is not an encouraging record for the Canaries to reflect on as they gear up for an attempt to prove it is possible, particularly with the continued disappointment of improved performances not bringing the points deserved.

Yet when looking back over those past 10 campaigns, there are several examples of teams with a similar points total at this stage, who have gone on to achieve the improbable.

In 2018-19, Southampton were 18th and on 16 points - just two more than the Canaries currently have - yet a much-improved second half of the season saw them climb to 39 points to finish 16th and five points clear of the relegation zone.

Or go back to 2016-17, to an admittedly much more condensed survival scrap, when Swansea were bottom with 15 points after 21 games but, strangely, just one adrift of safety. The Swans improved hugely and ended up finishing 15th on 41 points, seven clear of the drop.

It was a very similar story in 2011-12, when Wigan were bottom at this stage and on 15 points, but again only a point adrift of 17th. They lifted themselves to 15th and a very respectable 43 points by the time the season was over, seven points above the bottom three.

All of which proves that Daniel Farke's assertion that a "little miracle" is needed to escape the current situation is more than just a rallying call or an attempt to alleviate pressure on his players - something special is needed now.

They can call on City legends for advice though, with Nigel Worthington's squad of 2004-05 coming agonisingly close to completing their own great escape.

After 21 games that yellow and green vintage were two points better off, sitting 17th and on 16 points after a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth on New Year's Day. Fast forward to the penultimate game of that campaign and City were 17th and a point clear of the relegation zone after a 1-0 home win over Birmingham.

The likes of Robert Green, Adam Drury and Darren Huckerby were on the verge of achieving something truly special, having won five of their previous 12 matches, including a famous 2-0 triumph over Manchester United.

Sadly, we all know what happened next. West Brom clambered off the bottom of the table on the final day - having had just 12 points at this stage of the season - as Norwich slumped to that incredibly painful 6-0 loss at Fulham.

If something special is to happen at Carrow Road during this second half of the season, however, game management is a phrase that must be bouncing around at Colney, after taking the lead in seven of the past nine games but somehow emerging with seven points from a possible 27.

VAR may have had its part to play in that profligacy - but we're all tired of talking about that. Ultimately, the Canaries have had plenty of opportunities to put all of those games to bed and get the win to spark a survival surge.

That is emphasised by the host of creative stats surrounding the rejuvenated Emi Buendia, fresh from being nominated for the Premier League Player of the Month, responding to being dropped to the bench for three matches in magnificent fashion.

WhoScored.com point out that the Argentine has created 31 chances in the past six Premier League game weeks, 12 more than any other player in the division. They also named him in their Team of the Week as the highest rated player, on 9.6 out of 10.

Only West Ham (15) have dropped more points than the 14 City have from winning positions this season, all of them since the start of December. While that shows how agonisingly close City have been to finding that spark they need, it also offers a clear area to improve upon, particularly when nose-diving Bournemouth head to Carrow Road, after next weekend's trip to Old Trafford.

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