Six things to bring Norwich City fans some Christmas cheer
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City will be in the relegation zone this Christmas but all hope is not lost. David Freezer searches for six reasons to hold on to positivity while you tuck into your Turkey and trimmings.
1 - Absolute brilliance from Emi
It's Christmas and in spite of Norwich City's precarious position, we shouldn't be moping around at this time of year - and it's easy to find a positive to kick-off with.
His name is Emi Buendia and he's back, baby. The talented Argentine was absolutely sensational at points during Saturday's gut-wrenching home loss to Wolves.
The playmaker who shares his birthday with another creative talent on Christmas Day, can enjoy his 23rd birthday knowing that his Premier League prospects are back on track.
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The cheers that roared from the Carrow Road stands as Buendia battled back to rob Jonny and then skipped past three challenges to start an attack were in wonder of seeing such a special talent in a yellow and green shirt.
For the second game running a succession of perfect through-balls were not converted but Buendia very much did his job and deserved to be on the winning team. Enjoy him while he's here, City fans.
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2 - All hope is not lost for Canaries
Daniel Farke's team have had the lead in five of their last six games but somehow emerged with just five points from a possible 18.
Clearly that isn't a positive element but it's what made the loss to Wolves so much more painful - that City are agonisingly close to being capable of pushing into the paradise of mid-table.
They should have beaten Arsenal, Sheffield United and Wolves, arguably even Leicester as well. But if we pretend those two points were the 10 they could have been, Norwich would be sat 13th rather than 19th and six points adrift of safety.
If this Canaries side were sinking without a trace, the players clearly weren't good enough and misery had won the day, then some minds would be turning to building towards a return to the Championship battleground.
That is not the case, hope remains. The average points total to survive in the last 10 seasons is 36, so a minimum of 24 from the final 20 games is now needed - and fast.
3 - Hanley has freedom of movement
No, this isn't a clever quip about Scotland wanting to stay in the European Union, it's about a Norwich City captain hoping for a second lease of life.
It was a big ask for Grant Hanley to be pitched back into battle after around 10 days of training, with City having been so careful with his rehab from groin and hernia surgery, having had one setback during his recovery process.
But not only did he slot back in as if he'd never been away, but the Scot also looked to be moving better than he had during those difficult opening games of that season - typified by that cruel own goal he scored at Anfield.
Whether he can handle three games in 10 days may be different, as City cannot risk an injury occurrence with Ben Godfrey now out until February.
His aerial presence, clear determination and surprise turn of pace were on show and are very much going to be needed for the rest of this search for survival.
4 - Cantwell surpasses Hoolahan
Todd Cantwell took on the number 14 this season with the hope of making the legendary Wes Hoolahan proud - and the Dereham Deco is doing just that.
The Irish magician's best goal return in a Premier League season for City was four, in both 2011-12 and 2015-16, now Cantwell has five, before Christmas.
That ties the 21-year-old with England's creative midfielders James Maddison and Mason Mount, as well as Aston Villa star Jack Grealish, who must be close to his first senior call-up.
I'm not saying Cantwell is better than Hoolahan or that he should be in the England squad, yet, but that's a remarkable return for a player who is putting in the hard graft to deservedly retain his starting role.
In Adama Traore there was a major threat to contend with and Cantwell worked hard to help Sam Byram largely thwart the speed demon's presence. His goal may have fallen kindly but he's earning that fortune.
5 - Home woe is serious problem
We can't make it all the way through without a negative aspect, I'm afraid, and City's poor home form has become unavoidable.
With Watford reviving their hopes with a 2-0 home win over the Manchester United on Sunday, the Canaries now have the joint worst home record of seven points from nine games, with the Hornets and Southampton.
Since that epic win Farke's team have lost five and drawn once, conceding 16 and scoring six, yet I don't feel the Carrow Road faithful have turned on the players - in fact the first half atmosphere was excellent.
Yet with two successive home games on the spin after the trip to Villa on Boxing Day, against Spurs and Palace, that struggle is so pertinent any hopes of kick-starting the season.
The always reliable @NCFCnumbers on Twitter points out it's the first time City have conceded more than one goal in eight consecutive home games, a stark statistic indeed.
6 - Attitude of champions is required
So where do the Canaries go from here? Well, to Villa Park to start with, where just seven months ago they were lifting the Championship trophy amid joyful scenes.
With only one win and one draw from their last eight games, Dean Smith is sure to be under heavy pressure, having been able to splash out around £130million this summer following play-off final success.
He may be a Villa fan but a club with such wealthy owners will not be slow in making changes if too much time is spent in the relegation zone.
With the excellent Scotland midfielder John McGinn ruled out with an ankle injury, it could just be a good time to go to Villa - but as ever, it's all about City.
If Norwich play like they did against Wolves, Leicester, Everton and Arsenal then clearly they are good enough to beat a struggling team. Perhaps Pukki just needs his feet up on Christmas Day though, to make sure that hurt toe is ready for business.