Premier League Relegation Betting: Does yellow peril beckon for the Canaries?

6May 2013

England - Premier League

 

Norwich City are beginning to look scared, argues Romilly Evans, as the relegation abyss pulls them ever closer

 

After some shoddy treatment at the hands of Newcastle United, Chris Hughton knows that, in the Premier League, any promise of certainty is a snare. Even at his new club of Norwich, illusions of security have soon faded fast, with his struggling side suddenly embroiled in a fight for survival with only two games of the season remaining.

 

Back in December, though, the Canaries were flying high, drawing favourable, if ironic, comparisons with Barcelona as officially Europe's most in-form outfit after an unbeaten streak of 11 games. No-one was wasting their breath with talk of relegation then and layers were prepared to offer Norwich at odds as big as 36.0 on the Betfair exchange.

 

However, just four months on and Norwich have become one of the most convincing candidates in the debate, trading at 4.2 to be relegated with only Wigan a shorter price.

 

And Saturday's loss at home to Aston Villa - where Hughton's Carrow Road predecessor, Paul Lambert, masterminded a late mugging - provided an eloquent closing argument. So much so that even that fans who were applauding their manager's strategy late last year resorted to that familiar terrace refrain: "you don't know what you're doing."

 

It was harsh on Hughton, whose team dominated for long spells of the second half and were only caught out by a trademark Villa counter-attack as Gabby Agbonlahor coolly converted Ashley Westwood's precision pass inside the dying minutes.

 

Villa now appear to be engineering a great escape. Five wins in their last eight games has seen them reach that magical 40-point marker (it's 10 years since any such side went down). Norwich, on the other hand, are panicking in quick sand. One minute they're safe as houses, the next they're being read their last rites.

 

Indeed, their reversal of fortune is so swift, Hughton must feel like Dan Ackroyd to Lambert's Eddie Murphy in 1980s classic, Trading Places. Still, perhaps their next opponents, West Brom, will turn out to be his Jamie Lee Curtis, a glamorous grafter whose finishing position in the league is already finalised (eighth), who subsequently takes pity on a club less fortunate.

 

From what we've seen this campaign, such sympathetic concessions aren't in the Baggies' new genetic make-up under Steve Clarke. However, the end of term is a funny period where teams with safety assured and glory out of reach, nonchalantly ease their foot off the pedal and allow teams in need to drive by to victory.

 

The only problem with Hughton's Norwich is that they appear singularly incapable of going through the offensive gears. As impassioned and energetic as their weekend workout was, goalmouth action was again at a nadir, with their only goal coming from the penalty spot. QPR and Stoke are the two teams to have scored fewer goals than Norwich in the league this season. And for all their neat interplay and combined creativity, the finishing flair is simply absent up front.

 

Here, Grant Holt appears condemned to an eternal labour of trying to get on the end of curling crosses and threaded through-balls only for them to pass agonisingly by his boot. Wes Hoolahan and Kei Kamara offer alternative attacking options - Hoolahan's weaving runs, Kamara's bobbing presence in the box - but neither has found the moves to make the highlight reel.

 

Following their fourth defeat in six top-flight tussles, Hughton has cancelled Norwich's end-of-year dinner in favour of his players channeling all their energies to the collective cause. You sense that's more of a PR step to placate the fretting fans. But when the whole club's tearing their fingernails out for some light relief, every little helps.

 

Domestic comforts are probably the best Norwich can hope for at the moment, especially considering their final game is away at the Etihad, where Man City's multi-millionaires will be keen to send their own supporters home happy after a recent tale of underachievement.

 

Hughton must also remember to keep it tight at the back, since three of the four remaining relegation contenders (alongside Wigan and Newcastle) have a similar goal-difference to the Canaries in the early twenties. Only Sunderland seem to effectively have a point in hand with their 10-goal advantage over their rivals.

 

So while Wigan appear the great escapologists (is their fourth final-day recovery mission time since 1997) and Sunderland have found a little form under Di Canio, Norwich and Newcastle remain rudderless and uncertain of where there next goal's coming from.

 

Hughton maintains that "it's still in our hands." But if they don't get the job done against West Brom, it may not be for very much longer. And the danger of an unlikely capitulation endures. With the current cost of demotion estimated at around £50m, it's a price neither Norwich nor their manager can afford to pay.

 

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Keywords: Premier League, Relegation Betting, Canaries

Source: Betfair

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