From the outside looking in, the sacking of Chris Hughton came as a shock. With five games to play, beginning with a relegation six-pointer at Fulham this weekend, the disruption in the dressing room could have an adverse effect as Norwich look to ensure survival. However, fans were quick to point out on Sunday evening that the dismissal of the former defender was good rather than bad.
The home defeat to fellow relegation rivals West Brom on Saturday means the Canaries have now lost four of their last six and sit just five points clear of Saturday's opponents Fulham. The loss to the Baggies was the final straw for the Norwich board and while some were surprised by the timing of Hughton's dismissal, the potential for an uplift could help them steer clear of the bottom three.
That, however, is easier said than done with Norwich facing Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal after the weekend meeting with the Cottagers. Sacking Hughton at this stage of the season may have left many scratching their heads, but the 'honeymoon period' that comes with the appointment of a new manager may work in Norwich's favour.
Nevertheless, one could argue that the writing had been on the wall for some time. Norwich have greatly underperformed this term having spent big on the likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Leroy Fer and Gary Hooper, with many tipping them to build on last season's 11th place finish as a result.
Despite investing heavily in the attack, only Crystal Palace (23) have netted fewer goals than Norwich (26) in the Premier League this term. The Eagles are also the only team to boast a worse conversion rate (6.2%) than the Canaries (6.3%), yet the south London team currently find themselves two points better off than their league counterparts with one game in hand.
Van Wolfswinkel in particular is one that has failed to live up to expectations, with many of the opinion that he is the worst signing of the season having scored just one goal in 22 league appearances. In that period, the Dutchman has fired off just seven shots on target. Of every goalscorer in the Premier League this season, only seven have a worse conversation rate than Van Wolfswinkel (3.3%), with that only a marginal improvement on teammate Nathan Redmond, the winger boasting the worst (1.7%) in the league.
As such, the problem could lie in the low number of risks that Norwich's attacking players have taken this season, with the Canaries averaging the fewest offsides per game (1.2) in England's top tier. The strikers aren't making enough runs in behind and the midfield are failing to play them in when they do. While it's positive that the frontmen can avoid being flagged offside regularly, the conservative approach makes life easier for opposition defences, resulting in fewer goals scored.
However, the lack of creativity from the midfield has hindered the strikers in the quest to net. With the likes of Redmond, Robert Snodgrass and Wes Hoolahan available, the trio, amongst others, should have been providing chances for the frontmen. But only Sunderland, Palace (both 26) and Hull (27) have created fewer clear-cut goalscoring opportunities than Norwich (28) this season, with the midfielders hardly making things easy for the frontmen. This means that, as a collective, the team are averaging just 3.9 shots on target per game, one of the poorest returns in England's top tier.
While the attack have failed to impress this term, similar can be said of the backline; a defence that is one of the worst in the league. Only Fulham (74) and Cardiff (64) have conceded more times than Norwich (52), while goalkeeper John Ruddy has committed the most errors that have led to a goal (four) in the Premier League this season. The attack may not have been firing on all cylinders, but the fragile defence certainly hasn't aided their cause this season. This is further compounded in the low number of tackles per match (17.6) Norwich are making, a return that is better only than West Ham (17.4) and Cardiff (16.1) in the league.
Injuries to key midfielders Alexander Tettey and Leroy Fer at different stages of the season would not have helped Norwich, but it's questionable whether Hughton would have been able to bring out the best in the players now. The loss to West Brom would have left confidence low and Hughton's lack of mental strength means it's unlikely he would have been able to boost morale heading into the final five games of the campaign.
Neil Adams is now the man charged with boosting morale ahead of the daunting run-in for the Canaries, starting with the trip to Craven Cottage as they look to secure three points against direct relegation rivals. However, he will need to bring out the best in his key performers if Norwich are to avoid dropping down into the Championship.
Adams will have to better Hughton's Premier League win ratio (24.2%) this season to give the Canaries any real hope of remaining in England's top tier, starting with a victory at Fulham on Saturday, but it's clear that the now former Norwich boss deserved to be handed his marching orders. While the timing was perhaps questionable, the fresh approach that comes with a new man at the helm may just be enough to help them secure safety.
All statistics courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com where you can find yet more stats and player ratings.Suggest a correction