Can City find fresh energy during final three games after seeing relegation fate confirmed?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Will confirmation of relegation take the pressure off Norwich City’s players? It has for some other teams after their fate was sealed during recent Premier League seasons.
Last season Fulham were relegated with five games to go after a horrific run of nine consecutive defeats, with a 4-1 loss at Watford confirming the Cottagers’ fate.
Scott Parker’s expensively assembled squad suddenly played with more freedom and won three games in a row without conceding a goal, 2-0 at home to Everton, 1-0 at Bournemouth and 1-0 against Cardiff at Craven Cottage.
They tailed off again with a 1-0 defeat at Wolves and a 4-0 home slump against Newcastle to see out the season but had at least saved some face and currently the West London side have already sealed their Championship play-off place under Parker, with slim hopes of automatic promotion still alive with three games to play.
Another of last year’s relegated teams, Cardiff, had their fate sealed by a 3-2 home loss to Crystal Palace in their penultimate match as they lost nine of 11 matches - but Neil Warnock’s team grabbed a memorable result on the final day, winning 2-0 at Manchester United.
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That meant eventually only finishing two points adrift of safety and while Warnock was eventually replaced by Neil Harris, the Bluebirds are on course for a play-off place in the Championship currently.
The last of the three teams, Huddersfield, endured a horrendous season after surviving their first campaign in the top flight under David Wagner. The German resigned in January after losing 15 of the opening 22 games of 2018-19.
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The Terriers were relegated with six games to play and their dire form continued with another four defeats for a horrendous run of 13 defeats in 14 games under Jan Siewert, before finally showing some spirit with a 1-1 home draw against Manchester United a 1-1 draw at Southampton.
However, Huddersfield’s struggles have continued and they are just two points clear of the relegation zone in the Championship with three games remaining, under former Lincoln boss Danny Cowley.
Other notable results in recent years saw already relegated Stoke win 2-1 at Swansea on the final day to drag the Welsh club down to the Championship with them.
Sunderland’s only win of their last 14 in 2017 came after their fate was confirmed, winning 2-0 at Hull to contribute to the Tigers also going down - although Hull then showed how the other direction is perfectly possible, being thrashed 7-1 at home by Tottenham on the final day.
And to come back around to the Canaries, Alex Neil’s team actually beat Watford 4-2 at Carrow Road in their penultimate game of 2016, only for resurgent Sunderland’s 3-0 home win over Everton to confirm City’s relegation on the same night.
It had been a shock 3-0 home slump against Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland a month earlier which had done the real damage and with David McNally resigning as chief executive just a couple of days before the Watford game, City were already bracing for the drop.
Two goals from loan striker Dieumerci Mbokani and an own goal added to Nathan Redmond’s opener but it was too little, too late.
Even then however, Neil was given a supportive reception which seemed to catch him by surprise as he admitted “that made it tougher, I feel like we’ve let them down” after his team’s despondent lap of appreciation at Carrow Road.
A poor 3-0 loss at Everton followed on the final day but how will the Canaries class of 2020 respond to their relegation, after equalling a club record of seven consecutive defeats?
Trips to Chelsea and Manchester City either side of a home clash with Burnley could be daunting for a squad already at a very low ebb and wanting the campaign to be over.
But strange results crop up at this stage of the season - as the Canaries proved in 2013 when they won 3-2 at Manchester City on the final day, taking advantage of a home team whose minds appeared to already be on their summer holidays.
There looks to be little danger of that time around though, with Pep Guardiola’s dethroned champions having a home Champions League round of 16 tie against Real Madrid to prepare for on August 7, with a 2-1 lead from the first leg.
Guardiola will also no doubt be keen to avenge the 3-2 defeat at Carrow Road suffered in September.
Chelsea are the only other English team still in the Champions League but they head to Bayern Munich on August 8 with a 3-0 deficit to overturn.
If the Norwich players can find some freedom amid their horrid situation, managing some positives during the final three matches would at least provide the slimmest of silver linings before the attempts to clear the dark clouds begin, with a quick turnaround expected ahead of next season.
- For more analysis of City’s situation, you can listen to the latest edition of the Pink Un Podcast above, recorded after Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to West Ham. Click here to subscribe to the show.