Hughton in little mood to tinker with his winning formula as Michu and the Swans await in Wales this weekendThu 6 Dec 12 by Rick Waghorn
If it ain’t bust, don’t try and fix it… that was the clear and simple message from City boss Chris Hughton today as the Canaries looked forward to this weekend’s long away trip to Swansea City.
Avoid defeat against the in-form Swans and it would be City’s ninth Premier League game unbeaten – a remarkable achievement given the company that the Norfolk club keep these days.
Not that they should head to the Liberty Stadium with anything unduly to fear. But to add a ninth game unbeaten in a league run that has seen home wins over both Arsenal and Manchester United would rank as one of the great run of results in the club’s history.
And given the fact that such success has been achieved on the back of a largely unchanged formula team-wise, boss Hughton appeared in little or no mood to change anything ahead of the trip to Wales.
Even if it left the likes of Jonny Howson, Simeon Jackson, Steve Morison, David Fox and the fit-again Russell Martin wondering when their next opportunity of a first team start might come.
“It is hard to keep them happy but that’s how you want it,” Hughton told SkySports today, as he was quizzed about how he kept everyone happy when – right now – the team is all-but picking itself.
While, for example, the goals might not be flying in, the results are coming thick and fast.
And against Swansea, people have to be prepared to close and close and close… deny them the space in which their passing football can run riot.
For that particular task, the Class of 2012-2013 that Hughton has assembled of late is totally, tailor-made.
In fact, that might be the group’s biggest strength – that, to a man, they put huge ‘shifts’ in. And in skipper Grant Holt – as Hughton was swift to point out following the 2-1 home win over Sunderland – they have a leader that leads by example.
Hence why few would expect Hughton to make any changes this weekend as the Canaries seek to fly into that mid-week Capital One Cup clash with their ex-mentor Paul Lambert with their proud unbeaten run of late still intact.
“You don’t want players happy to not be playing,” said Hughton, repeating a well-worn managerial mantra.
“It is frustrating when you are not playing but also, footballers see the game and know the game, and the fact we haven’t made too many changes of late is a consequence of the form and the results,” he added.
“If players not in the team are seeing the club getting good results then they understand that, but it doesn’t stop the frustration. You want players that want to be playing and you don’t want players that are making your life easy because they are out of the team.”
Martin, for example, will know that he will have to bide his time in ousting Steven Whittaker from the side, while Michael Turner might not expect to walk straight back into the team as and when he recovers from injury given the manner in which Ryan Bennett has held the fort in his absence.
Holt and Wes Hoolahan might not have been amongst the goals of late, but their work-rate and commitment to the Canary cause suggests that Hughton will be loathe to break that partnership up – until, potentially, the January transfer window delivers some exotic, foreign striker to fill that second striker berth.
Back in South Wales and Swans boss Michael Laudrup was busily slapping a £30 million valuation on ten-goal top-scorer Michu who scored twice in last weekend’s 2-0 win at Arsenal.
“I don’t want to let him go, sometimes the offer can be so big you have to accept, but I really don’t think clubs are going to pay so much money for him,” said the Dane, setting a benchmark of Joe Allen’s £15 million switch to Anfield last summer.
“We have the example of what Liverpool paid for Joe Allen, if they have to pay double for Michu there are few clubs who could afford that,” he added.