David Freezer: Watford and Saints have shown City how to find the survival spark

Troy Deeney has spoken about the changes implemented by Nigel Pearson at Watford Picture: Adam Davy/

Troy Deeney has spoken about the changes implemented by Nigel Pearson at Watford Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Southampton and Watford have demonstrated how to spark a survival surge in recent weeks, so what can Norwich City learn from their rivals ahead of today’s crunch clash with Bournemouth?

Interestingly, those two clubs have also shown that it's not just as simple as making a change at the top, with the Saints sticking by Ralph Hasenhuttl in spite of a 9-0 home humiliation against Leicester but Watford enjoying an upswing under Nigel Pearson.

Given that Daniel Farke's position as Canaries head coach clearly isn't under pressure - and nor should it be - it leaves both as interesting case studies into what's required to breathe fresh life into a crumbling campaign.

Southampton were 18th after that dreadful night in the pouring rain against Leicester, when former Norwich number one Angus Gunn was essentially abandoned by his team-mates.

They were on eight points, one better than Norwich and three ahead of rock-bottom Watford, with Hasenhuttl seemingly certain to be sacked. However, 12 games later the Saints have surged to 12th, taking 20 points from their last 10 games, conceding 10 goals, scoring 16 and not only beating Norwich and Watford, but also Tottenham, Chelsea and Leicester.

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Gunn and defenders Maya Yoshida and Jannik Vestergaard were benched, playing with three at the back was ditched in favour of a 4-4-2 and that's brought the best out of striker Danny Ings, who has plundered a superb 10 goals in 11 matches.

They're now just four points from sixth placed Sheffield United and managed 10 shots on target during their 2-1 revenge win at Leicester last weekend, despite having 42 percent of possession and an unusually low pass success rate of just 57 percent.

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The Saints players look to be straining every sinew for their manager and enjoying the added attacking freedom Hasenhuttl has encouraged since that night, yet over at Vicarage Road it's an old school approach that seems to have worked.

The Hornets opted for former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson after they sacked Quique Sanchez Flores - and the defensive improvements have been drastic.

Talismanic striker Troy Deeney is back in the thick of things, with four goals in five games, after a knee injury had ruined his start to the season, and was asked what Pearson had changed after Sunday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth.

"Just stripped it back to basics," their captain told Sky Sports. "I don't want to be too simplistic and not give him enough credit.

"He's put a demand on the players, as players we've accepted that demand, and as you can see, the way we're working and running for each other, we probably could have scored more."

That has led to four wins and a draw in the last five matches, scoring 11 and conceding just two to lift themselves from the foot of the table and into 17th, re-igniting survival hopes just as they were starting to look dead and buried.

For Canaries fans, it's difficult not to look on with envy. Yet Farke's team have that same opportunity against a nosediving Bournemouth today, who have lost nine of their last 11.

In contrast, prior to the 4-0 loss at Old Trafford, City's displays have been much improved - they just need that spark to replenish belief and boost confidence.

How to get that rejuvenating result? Compare Watford's 2-1 loss at Southampton in late November, just before appointing Pearson, with their win at Bournemouth.

Their aerial duels won doubled from 21 to 42, with Deeney responsible for an incredible 24.

While their stats have increased across the board, it's a reminder that sometimes a bit of direct football and a target man who can make the ball stick in the final third really can make a difference.

It's often assumed that this Canaries squad is only really capable of success based on possession and high quality passing, yet that hasn't been good enough so far this season.

So can they add a bit of that 'old school' intent and downright determination to the mix, to find that spark they need? If City don't show enough of that to beat Bournemouth, then a long, hard few months await. Nothing less than a win will do this afternoon.


There's a cracking Youth Cup tie on offer at Carrow Road on Tuesday night, with a decent crowd expected for a fourth round battle with Manchester United's under-18s.

Canaries fans have seen how influential the Youth Cup has been in the development of several academy products in recent years, so it would be great to see plenty of supporters there to give the U18s an added edge - with a home tie against Leeds up for grabs.

Along Come Norwich and Barclay End Norwich are taking over the Snake Pit for the night to create a singing section, with those interested in making some noise for the youth boys needing to head for exit gate three.

Entry is free and kick-off is 7pm, with City's youngsters showing their potential during a 3-2 home win over Newcastle in the last round, with Josh Martin scoring an impressive hat-trick. If you can't make the game then you can follow live updates with us at pinkun.com.

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