Terrible tactics make Chris Hughton favourite in Premier League sack race
Norwich City boss Chris Hughton is now Coral’s odds-on favourite at 5/6 in the next Premier League manager to leave market following a hefty 4-1 defeat at Aston Villa, coached by Canaries predecessor Paul Lambert.
This contest between two teams in the Premier League relegation battle had another subplot in Wes Hoolahan. He reportedly tried to push through a move to Villa Park and be reunited with Lambert in January, but instead lined up for Norwich in the West Midlands and opened the scoring.
One overhead kick from Christian Benteke then literally turned the game upside down. Three goals in 12 minutes, with the Belgian, who is the Villa top-scorer, netting again before Leandro Bacuna’s clinical finish, left the Canaries rattled.
Visiting captain Sebastien Bassong also turned into his own net before half time, ensuring the game was way beyond Norwich. Hughton moved to introduce on-loan Galatasaray striker Johan Elmander after an hour, but not in the role you would assume.
Instead of pairing Elmander with Canaries leading marksman Gary Hooper up top, he played the substitute out of position on the right flank. The Swede’s only contribution was a late booking. Given such an inept tactical deployment, it’s no wonder Elmander has failed to score in 19 Premier League appearances for Norwich.
As if that didn’t provoke the ire of visiting fans enough, they may also be bewildered by a shocking statistic. Nobody off the Canaries bench has found the net since last April. That is a damning indictment of Hughton’s ability to change games by bringing players on.
Elmander was not alone in offering nothing for Norwich against Villa. Fellow subs Anthony Pilkington and Jonny Howson, who admittedly was making his comeback from a lengthy spell out with a back injury, were anonymous on arrival.
How costly merely going through the motions at Villa Park could be for Hughton remains to be seen. The Canaries are four points above the drop zone, but the three teams directly below them all have games in hand.
If Crystal Palace (15/8 to be relegated), Sunderland (13/8) and West Bromwich Albion (11/4) can pick up points from those outstanding fixtures, then Norwich may see their 2/1 price to go down shorten.
Happily for Hughton, however, his job prospects – to some extent at least – remain in his own hands. Half of the Canaries’ 10 remaining Premier League matches are against sides currently in the bottom-eight. Three of those are at Carrow Road.
Victories over Stoke City, Sunderland and West Brom, coupled with battling draws at Swansea City and bogey team Fulham, would take Norwich to 39 points. That should be enough to ensure a fourth successive season in the top-flight.
Hughton can take nothing else for granted though, as his team’s run-in pits them against the old ‘Big Four’ of English football in Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Winning their remaining home games and nicking points in away matches with teams in and around the Canaries would mean the job is done before that fearsome finale. Back Norwich at 4/11 to stay up.