David Freezer: Encouraging early win for City must not lead to complacency
- Credit: Archant © 2004
Just how crucial could an early win prove to Norwich City this season? Just ask the class of 2004-05.
Nigel Worthington's team had been promoted as champions and arrived in the Premier League with plenty of momentum, yet it wasn't until November when victory finally arrived, 14 games into the campaign.
With quality players such as Darren Huckerby, Robert Green and Adam Drury joined by summer signings including Thomas Helveg, David Bentley and Mattias Jonson, hopes were high at Carrow Road.
Yet despite plenty of promising performances, narrowly losing 2-1 at Manchester United and holding out for 0-0 draws at Tottenham and Manchester City, that elusive win just would not arrive.
Eight points had been picked up but it wasn't until November 20 when a Damien Francis double earned a 2-1 home success against Southampton that the pressure was finally released.
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However, some of that early confidence and hope had been sapped and it required a late surge of 13 points from six games to set up a chance of survival on the final day - beating Manchester United, Newcastle, Charlton and Birmingham at home.
You'll need little reminding of what happened next. Fulham, 6-0, disaster, let's not go there.
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Thankfully, the class of 2019 have got that particular monkey off their back nice and early, in just the second game of the season. Given the first five games includes Liverpool away and both Chelsea and Manchester City at home, beating Newcastle on Saturday could be particularly helpful for Daniel Farke's team.
Nothing is decided in August though. Recent Premier League campaigns have provided plenty of evidence of bright starts which have fizzled out, so there is absolutely no room for complacency about the challenge ahead for City.
Last season the first of the promoted sides to win was Fulham, beating Burnley 4-2 at home in their third game. However, it was the only win of the opening 12 matches, picking up just five points from a possible 36 - and providing a cautionary tale for any fans getting too carried away with Norwich's first victory.
Wolves' first win came in game week four but their expensively-assembled squad picked up an excellent 15 points from a possible 24 as they only lost one of their first eight, going on to finish seventh - providing some encouragement of what could be possible.
Cardiff provide the evidence of what City are avoiding though, not winning any of their opening eight and only picking up two draws before finally tasting victory, going on to be relegated.
Newcastle proved it was possible to shake off a bad start though, picking up just three draws in their opening 10 games, before going on to finish comfortably in 13th under Rafa Benitez.
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Go back to 2017-18 and the promoted trio of Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield all picked up early wins and all three went on to survive.
While the previous season saw Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull all ease the pressure early with a taste of victory but it was only Burnley who avoided the drop.
All of which offers a reminder that the chase for mid-table safety in the top flight has only just begun for the Canaries.
It's the style with which Newcastle were beaten which has really boosted hopes of survival though, immediately suggesting Farke's methods and the style of player within his squad will be well suited to the Premier League. There were even signs of it during the 4-1 loss at Liverpool on the opening night.
The magic number is 36 though, that's the average amount of points required to be sure of survival in the Premier League during the last 10 campaigns.
It was just 35 last season and 34 in 2018 but 40 were required to book another crack at the top tier in 2011.
There was no sense of Farke or his players getting carried away with their triumph on Saturday, despite the obvious delight at showing what they could do on the big stage.
It's fired belief that a good result could be achieved against Frank Lampard's transitional Chelsea this weekend and that there's nothing to fear at West Ham the following week.
The clash against brilliant champions Manchester City can obviously be put in the same category as the Liverpool opener, of any point being a minor miracle - but Pep Guardiola's side will have an opening Champions League group stage game a few days later, which could have an impact.
Already however, the trips to Burnley and Crystal Palace which follow look much more winnable.