The rights and wrongs of Chris Hughton – Norwich City manager – have taken up column inches and web pages aplenty for most of 2013; the battle between ‘outers’ and ‘apologists’ breaking new ground with every backward step and subsiding at every forward one.
With one step forward invariably accompanied by two in a backward direction those calling for change have been provided with several rounds of ammunition over the course of the year. Yet those who resist it – which in truth includes most of the writers on this site – insist the case for status quo (no, not Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi) is just as compelling.
We at MyFootballWriter pride ourselves on being a forum for informed debate and for the most part those for and against have done so eloquently and without discussions disintegrating into petty arguments and name-calling.
For the sake of balance Dave Bowers has kindly written a piece that puts forward, in a reasoned and rational perspective, the case for a change in management.
Over to you Dave…
As we enter 2014 and the second half of the season we face a difficult and uncertain future. Norwich City Football Club is led by Chris Hughton. A manager who undoubtedly splits fans’ opinions.
On one hand under Hughton we finished a respectable 11th with 44 points last season, we are without debt, and spent big in the summer attracting a lot of top talent. On the other hand, in 2013 we have witnessed our team’s playing style deteriorate, performances against the big teams turn from competitive matches to roll-overs, and we sit just 3 points above the relegation zone.
This mix of success and failure has created passionate sides for both keeping and ousting the boss.
What if we put passion aside and looked at 2013 statistically?
The average points required for safety in the Premiere League is 40 or 1.05 per game. Are we on course to make this?
Looking at 2013 as a whole, from Jan to Dec 2013 NCFC have averaged 1.03 per game. Not enough.
In the 2013/14 season NCFC have averaged 1 per game.
Put simply, with our current form, in the average season we will be relegated. Ignoring the mean average and looking at previous tables, Norwich would be relegated 11 out of 21 seasons on their current point per game ratio. More than half.
To put it another way, our odds of relegation are similar to flipping a coin and calling heads.
Looking at our position now compared to this time last season City went into 2013 eight points above the relegation zone. Instead we enter 2014 a mere 3 points above it.
Sometimes the table can hide more complex factors, such as a difficult run of games. What if we took like-for-like ties and compared results for our home games where we should be picking up points:
2013/14 : 8/24 points
2012/13 : 10/24
In this case three of our results have declined, two improved. Overall both seasons show a worrying trend of dropping large quantities of points at “Fortress Carrow Road”.
We should also review our performances. Key indicators being goals scored vs. goals conceded.
Goals scored per game:
Goals conceded per game:
Again, we have regressed over last season with a leaky defence and impotent strike force, despite large squad investment.
To highlight our lack of goals, we have failed to score in 8 out of 19 games. To use the coin tossing analogy again, toss a coin and call heads; those are approximately the odds of not seeing Norwich score for your ticket purchase. It’s also 16 points we never competed for.
As a rational person, looking at these statistics individually and as a whole, it paints a worrying picture of a team in decline. Regardless of whether you like the manager as a person, believe he can turn our team around and save us from relegation, it’s clear there are significant issues that need to be addressed.
For me the course of action is clear. Statistically I do not see Hughton saving us. In the unlikely event we survive I can’t see him reversing such a decline and taking us forward in a meaningful way.
If you still believe Chris is going to take City forward, I would suggest grabbing a coin and tossing it a few times.
Many thanks to Dave for taking the time to compile his well thought out and statistically compelling case.
Over to you now. What do you think?
We’ll argued and points well made. I find myself torn, I really don’t know which way to go, so for the sake of rational debate I’ll have a stab at defending Hughton.
At the moment we are missing Pilkington, Howson, E. Bennett and Tettey, quite possible four first teamers. On top of that both Hooper and RvW have missed long stints. Yes we’ve spent but goodness knows the squad has been stretched.
So often it’s been such fine margins, recently Hooper has got fit and scored a few goals. No surprise it’s been our best part of the season. Would our season look much better with all these players fit and ready? I reckon it might.
Hughton is defensive, but in many ways he reflects so much of the lower reaches of the premier league, the first rule is don’t get beat and any away point is a great result. It is against the lesser teams we have done much better, I can’t think of the first excuse for how crap we’ve been against the ‘big’ teams but against those around us we’ve done ok. The result against Fulham was very poor, and next up against Palace I think could be pivotal – if we win I’ll feel ok, lose and I’ll be terrified, and draw? Well every away point is a good one!
Still I’m not decided, Hughton in or out? The problem is I think if the des ion isn’t made in the next day or two then I think Hughton is here for the remainder, we should get behind him and the team as best we can
Alexander Pope said that we should never judge a work by a part rather than the whole. Dave, like many ‘outers’, is doing precisely that. Let’s concentrate on 2013 so we can ignore the 10 match unbeaten run before that. Managers should be judged on whole seasons, not on cherry picked parts that suit the argument of their detractors (at least Dave didn’t resort to the usual ploy of not counting the last two games against WBA and ManCity because they ‘were on the beach’. Yes, City did spend big in the summer (by our standards) but we haven’t seen the outcome of that expenditure yet. RvW’s toe injury has prevented that. Hooper has come in after his injury to score at a decent rate for the 12 matches played. Yes, the tonkings at ManCity and Liverpool were embarrassing, but recent tonkings by Spurs and others, like Hull 6 – Fulham 0, show that this can happen to any team. City are 2 points away from the 11th place they finished last season. The truth is that there are at least 10 teams who could go down this season. Personally, I don’t think City are going to be one of them. My prediction was for a mid-table finish and I stand by that.
The performance against Fulham,outplayed and beaten from one up led to yet more calls for a “reaction” which never really materialised,United quickly realising that we were impotent in the final third and therefore happy to concede possession to wait for their chance. That plan worked perfectly. Rubbish over Xmas as usual and now awaited by a rejuvenated Palace 2014 is going to be tough for a deteriorating team who lack creativity,guile or that match-winning flare.Relegation beckons.
Adam Penny says
It’s a fair argument when only statistics are concerned. When you consider the extent to which this half of the season has been disrupted by a hefty number of injuries necessitating far too regular changes in line-ups, even dependence on a pair of teenagers on the wings, it goes a long way to explaining why we’ve been so erratic in comparison to last season.
I don’t think improved form is dependent on who is managing, I think it’s dependent on us getting a decent run without critical injuries in midfield in order to establish some consistency.
Good balanced debate from the best NCFC website… I jump from one side of the fence to the other at the moment. Fulham was a big concern and i cant help feeling someone giving the team more freedom to play would engineer better results, as we seem much better when playing at a higher tempo.
I want Hoots to succeed he was my first choice to replace Lambert and im weary of the Charlton example who thought they could do better than Curbishley and look what happened there!.
In truth no-one knows… As always Norwich fans strap yourself in it will be an interesting ride finding out!.
I have two issues with the CH management style and in the end have to come down on the “Next Please” side of the fence.
The first is that there are two ways to approach a game of football. “How do we beat the opposition” and “How do we stop them beating us” CH fits into the second group. Paul Lambert into the first.
The second is that he seems to be very slow to react to tactical changes in the game and there never appears to be a pre-ordained “Plan B” if what we are doing is not working.
The game against Man U was a perfect example of both. No-one expects us to go flat out attack against the red devils so the “mind-set” of the game is perfect from CH. The result…we should have won it, we should have had two penalties. Some say we were unlucky. I do not agree. The second reason I gave above related to Plan B. When Moyes brought on Welbeck to play a similar role to Hoolahan he changed the game…but we did not change to combat his arrival and suddenly we were going backwards.
How many games have we started well this year to be outplayed later in the game? Manu U, Fulham, Chelsea at Carrow Road when Mourinho brought on a front man for fear of losing and they overran us in a game we should have at the very least drawn to name but a few.
We have already dropped too many points that we should have had. A draw against Chelsea…a draw against Man U…a win against Fulham…a draw against Hull away. This 5 points alone would see us currently sitting in 10th place…and not even having this discussion.
Maybe Newcastle saw something similar in CH and that is why they decided to make the change.
Of course that opens a whole new discussion on “Who could we replace him with and would they be better”. But that is for another time.
It’s interesting that Fulham now have Ray Wilkins and Alan Curbishley as backup whist we have nobody with any apparent tactical nous.
For me that is a serious error from the club, I don’t think this manager is good enough with his current defensive minded staff to keep us up.
Michael D says
I think the points made by Joe (7) and GJ (6) are interesting. It’s clear that CH does not want anyone else supporting him on the tactical side; for me the real question is why? One (unconscious) reason would appear that CH struggles with imaginative decision making during a game. He doesn’t react well to the changes of other managers as GJ says, which suggests he wouldn’t react well either to somebody else given him advice during a game too.
For most of the season, I have had one further question for CH too – why he left himself so bereft of quality midfield resources at the start of this season? We’ve no adequate replacements for any of Tettey, Howson and Fer, and Hughton has struggled for a long time to fill the gap created by Tettey’s absence, never mind when Howson started to be added to the injury list too.
The final question is the consistency one – why are we so inconsistent this season? Why could we perform in a manner against Man U, but not against Fulham, when a similar performance would have gained us 3 points? There is a leadership beat which skips in and out. Bassong as team captain has been a bad call, Martin is better, but perhaps not ideal, and Hughton struggles to get the team consistently motivated. It’s tough, a league that requires 110% intensity every game; what we do need is better and more reliable leadership.
Dave B says
I don’t believe I’m cherry picking data. A full calendar year and enough games to represent a season is a fair period to judge a team on.
The “10 game unbeaten run” is a piece of data that is often cited but used entirely out of context. It’s a great soundbite, but we forget that before the “run” NCFC had a terrible start to that season, not winning a game until late Oct. It was also followed by a run of one win in sixteen games. People often have selective memory when remembering this period of Hughton’s tenure.
Ferus Lupus says
Good article. Any chance of a poll on the site? I’m personally an ‘outer’ and I think the outers are in the majority of maybe 60-40, but it would be great to test that assumption amongst the readers of the most rational City site.
John day says
Great article which has drawn a number of good to read comments,
Paul and Rick make some reasonable counter points, but my fear is those last four games.
If we are behind the line now and last year we only made it by the skin of our teeth, then I would suggest some level of radical response is needed now to give us a sporting chance
Notwithstanding the dire football that on the whole we have had to put up with, the fact remains that Hughton’s win ratio is 9 out of 40 ! The 10 game unbeaten run was the blip. I ask you, what other top flight manager would still be in a job with a dreadful record like that? He has also presided over our worst ever defeat since 1938 and we also had to suffer the embarrassment of being the only Premier League side to have been knocked out of the FA Cup by non league opposition. Hughton has a wealth of talent at his disposal IMO but does not have the tactical nous to set his teams up to use them properly.
It is only a matter of time before he is sacked, McNally is just putting off the inevitable and by doing so risks our PL status and the millions that go with it.
HUGHTON OUT !
The perplexing thing about the ten game run (and a little bit beyond that) was that we were playing some exceptional football. More defensive, yes, but exactly what supporters we’re saying we needed – defensive intelligence across the team, that had been missing from the Lambert days, coupled with good passing going forwards on the break.
NCFC more than matched teams, big and small, for ten games or so, and whilst not the most attacking, we were tactically a pleasure to watch. The victory v Man Utd was one of the most accomplished tactical performances we’ve witnessed in many years. The subsequent 4-3 loss to Man City and 1-1 with Spurs were a real stake in the ground as to how we could stand up to teams. The beguiling thing is how it all unravelled from then. Hughton seemed to get the fear and stopped playing – and it hasn’t got any better.
We know he can do it – he proved it back then – and whatever statistics and predictions are made above, none can legislate for injuries, bad luck (Wellbeck’s goal/rebound was unfair on City) and the odd amazing/terrible performance that comes out of nowhere.
The team is not improving – but the question is whether Hughton can impose some kind of style again. As with many, each day I wake up on a different side of the fence.
I have not done the research but my recollection is that in seasons where we have managed to stay in the top flight the majority of the points have been accumulated in the first half of the season. Points are harder to come by in the second half when they become more important to both those at the top and those at the bottom.
The weaknesses, highlighted so well above, have been evident for some time. There is no suggestion we will have another “10 match unbeaten run” and all the evidence points to us coming up well short this time. I hope I am wrong. But with the boys from Suffolk coming on the rails 2014 could be a bumpy year-don’t scoff, is that not what happens to us at NCFC? Happy New Year!
james d says
Are results really deteriorating? We have the same amount of points this season from the games we played last season (15) but we are picking up more points against teams around us. City also have only 3 less than lambert at the same stage despite probably a tough run of fixtures.
The argument of we spent big doesn’t work as everyone spent big because everyone had more money.
Looking over a calendar year for results also doesn’t work as you don’t play a seasons worth of games in a calendar year. For example we’ve played Liverpool away twice, man City away twice, villa at home twice, Everton at home twice, Sunderland away twice.
The Paul lambert argument as well isn’t good either. Look at villa regularly getting booed off and having scored only 7 home goals all season and in only 4 games.
Injuries to half the midfield are hurting us and players like Fer have been looking tired recently. With Tettey, howson, pilkington, bennett and Snodgrass all having significant time out that would take its toll. Add hooper, wolfswinkle and bassongs injuries and it has left Hughton with very few options on the bench to make big changes.
Fans want the attacking football from under lambert but few premier league teams can actually do that (even lambert). People quickly forget the hammering by man city and Liverpool under lambert and the reason for heavy defeats this season from arsenal and Chelsea were because Hughton went for it. They also forget the shocking away performance to almost relegated Blackburn, home to fulham, away at Sunderlan and other poor games under lambert.
There are a Lot of city fans to view lamberts time with rose tinted glasses. Our expectations were a lot lower, it really wasn’t any rosier
Tom B says
Dave, I admire your passion and desire to try to find some meaning in statistics. However, I think you’ve misinterpreted some of the data which you are using. Please can you identify how you have arrived at the figure of 40 points being the average required for safety in the Premier League.
If you take the entire history of the Premier League (including when teams played 42 games in 92/93, 93/94 and 94/95), the average points scored by the team finishing in the highest relegated position is 37.3. If you exclude the three seasons when 42 games were played by each team, then the average drops to 36 points.
In the past 15 seasons, 40 points would not have secured safety only once (2002/2003) and only one further time (2010/2011) was 40 points the minimum requirement to secure safety.
Furthermore, there is only one additional season in this period when 38 points would not have been enough to guarantee safety (2006/2007). Although even then, a strong(ish) goal difference (something we cannot rely on!) was enough for Wigan to beat the drop with 38 points.
I’m not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that because we’re on 19 points after 19 games that we’re guaranteed 38 come the end of the season but, all in all, this hardly seems the coin tossing scenario that you are suggesting.
For what my opinion is worth, I believe if we stick with Hughton then we’ll stay up this year. And potentially a few more years to come.
I am not an admirer of his style of play and think he has much to learn in terms of influencing games through changes in tactics and personnel during the 90 minutes. However, he has improved the playing squad significantly and if nothing else seems to be able to drag a performance out of the team when things are starting to look very bleak.
I think the most significant change we need to make is with our fitness staff. The run of injuries we have had is unacceptable and that a large number of the injuries have come during training is indicative of this job not being done correctly.
Dave B says
@16 Tom B
I’ve gone back and checked my sources and there is definitely a grey area of interpretation. The source I used gave the pts. of 17th, rather than 18th +1. So the correct way of presenting my data would be “The teams that survived had X pts”.
However one mistake you have made is..
“If you take the entire history of the Premier League (including when teams played 42 games in 92/93, 93/94 and 94/95), the average points scored by the team finishing in the highest relegated position is 37.3. ”
Finishing in the highest relegated position would still get you relegated. So, assuming your maths is correct on 37.3 being average for 18th spot, you would need one more point and that would (I believe) make it 38.3 for safety. Since you can’t get 38.3 pts and you need to be above the average, that would make the average required to be above 38.3, so 39.
There’s some arguable logic and maths there and you could debate anywhere between 36-39 pts is the average needed for survival. My point is that since our current rate has us at 38, we’re dead on target for the line between 17th & 18th and we’re hoping that the league is kind to us, rather than securing our own future.
james d says
They are certainly cherry picked stats and not all correct. We have failed to score in 7 out of 19 games not 8. In fact over half the league have failed to score in at least 6 games.
Our points at home may have dropped but we are actually up on points away from home.
We’re unbeaten against bottom half sides away from home and are yet to conceded a goal either. Only 6 sides have more clean sheets over the 19 teams than us.
We have the joint second worst record against top half sides but it’s only 4 worse than Liverpools.
You can easily find stats to back up each side view of Hughton. The only ones I think matter are our position in the table and thus season vs last season results. Calendar year stats are skewed based on how the fixture list falls.
@17 Dave B – Could you run your figures again excluding the first three seasons (when teams played 42, rather than 38 games) in order to facilitate a like for like comparision for both the 18th & 17th placed teams over that period? The end result may well be the same. but I’m being curious. Thanks.
Mike C says
Lies, damned lies and statistics.
Subjective use of statistics proves nothing and, forgive me Dave B, but 38 points is more than 37.3 points, so you don’t need to up the target again.
Dave B is entitled to his view, but my major disagreement here is with Gary’s view that this is a “statistically compelling case”. No, I don’t get that at all.
Dave B says
@18 james d
“Calendar year stats are skewed based on how the fixture list falls.”
There is only one calendar year stat (which isn’t compared to another calendar year), and it’s an average. So that’s fine.
I’m happy to accept there are other stats that may show improvement over those I provide, but really they’re not the main stats and don’t you think there’s some straw clutching going on here?
Our goals scored are down, our goals conceded are up, our pts above relegation zone reduced, and our average pts put us as flirting between the 17th/18th places in an average season.
Is this a manager doing a good job?
Gary Gowers says
Mike (20) – Apologies if the wording offended. Just careless on my part and was simply a reference to the stats quoted in Dave’s interesting piece. If you’ve read my columns you’ll know my thoughts on Chris Hughton.
But noted – ‘must try harder’
Dave B says
@20 Mike C
Actually, you do need to up it twice because Tom does not provide the stat for safety, he provides it for 18th place.
Firstly you need to up 37.3 to 38.3, because 37.3 represents 18th (relegation). Therefore to get 17th (survival) you need 38.3, but you can’t get 38.3, there’s no such thing, so even if you had 38, you would be under average.
Again, it’s all arguable and relatively unimportant whether the average is 36 or 39, because we are firmly in the relegation ballpark.
james d says
Don’t care about goals scored/goals conceded. We have 15 points from fixtures we played last season, the exact same tally as last season. Despite not replicating wins and united and city. Points determine where you finish.
We’ve let in 32 goals. 21 were against the top 5. Lose one nil or seven nil to man city. You still get zero points.
One calendar year which includes multiple away trips to Anfield, emerits, ethihad, etc… That skews the points per game especially when you refer to fortress carrow road being important.
Clutching at straws? No more than you. 2 points off mid table and same points from same matches as last season is a reason to be sacked? Without the injuries it could be better.
We were mid table in the summer spending table and a couple of points off midtable now.
Has changing manager helped the other teams much
much. Probably only palace and they didn’t sack their manager. Their turn around also started before pulis came in.
Russell S. says
Whoever thought a few stats could generate such interest! Dave – have you done a full regression analysis on your data?
Someone quoted Pope – let me add the classic from Mark Twain..”lies, damn lies and statistics.”
Up to 20% of Americans think the moon landings were a hoax and more than that think they’ve been abducted by aliens – doesn’t mean such stats are rooted in any kind of physical reality.
All I know is the boys are busting their proverbials every game and Hughton is a damn fine, experienced football man. We’re scrapping hard in exactly the part of the table I thought we would be and are likely to be for the foreseeable future. It ain’t pretty every week but it’s the same for 10-12 teams in the division who don’t have mega bucks to splash out on players who will be in Brazil in 6 months.
With Malky waving his P45, I suspect the outers are drooling for him to take over and he might improve things..he might not – flip a coin on that one!
Gary – thanks for the smiley Chris photo.
Dave B says
@24 – You’re making my point for me with the calendar year issue. With full year, multiple trips to top clubs, the average pts per game is than recent form. Either way they’re both around 1pt per game, which equate to less than 44 pts last season, and a regression towards relegation.
@25 – Not yet. Tonight if I have time. I’ll exclude the first three seasons and get figures for actual 17th finishes and theoretical minimums.
Gary Gowers says
Russ (25) – Don’t mention it… did I mention I’m taking requests as a new feature in 2014!?
Happy New Year all…
@james d – agree with a lot said regarding PL era. The away game at Sunderland two seasons ago was the worst performance of a Norwich team I have ever witnessed. PL’s style worked well for us for a while and he knew it could not continue. Take a look at the Villa forums he and his style are very un loved. Anyway enough said on PL.
I have always been a firm CH fan and continue to be so although I have had one wobble this season so far. Arguably we have seen some of our teams (recent years) greatest football under his comand, look at last season, Arsenal and Man U at home, Man C where a defender was brought on towards the end and the ball like this weekend was played into the corner to finish the game. Swansea away which was pure attacking football and you can not dismiss the last game of the season.
Signings??? Where would we be this season without them given the injuries.
Very little has been laid at McNally’s door. Why??? Surely the frustration should be aimed there. Is he not to blame for the style of football we are enduring week in week out through his continued reliance of CH.
There though lays my confidence in all that is NCFC. We should never under estimate what we have in our CEO a gent and leader with qualities that very few clubs have.
So me, I am fully in the IN camp, but let’s see what 24hrs hold….
Cheers Gary and nice piece Dave.
The Prof. says
Dave(26) – that sounds like a right rollicking way to spend New Year’s Eve..I raise a glass of fizzy pop in your honour.
Before you get carried away, can I draw your attention to an academic paper which reports a statistical analysis of footy manager records and concludes that ‘short-termism’ is a fool’s paradise.
i.e stick with Chris H and you will be rewarded.
The paper can be downloaded for free at;
Gary – as you are in a generous mood, can you fix it for us to beat Palace tomorrow?
Chris L says
A well argued article, as well as a well argued debate afterwards. It’s refreshing to have a forum that seems to be read by the intelligent and reasonable among the City faithful, when Facebook and Twitter seem dominated by idiots.
I think Mr Hughton balances on a bit of a knife edge among City fans- someone above said that the split is probably 60% outers, 40% inners, but I’m not sure that’s true and it seems to change week on week depending on the result. I think the statistical approach in the article is a tad selective, and I do think that we’re seeing a slow but sure improvement in City’s performance, all the more commendable given the rotten luck we’ve had with injuries and the couple of results that really went against the run of play.
I’m an inner, partly because I think Hughton’s the right man for Norwich and that we’ll continue to see slow but concrete improvement under him, but more because I’m more worried by what sacking the manager might mean for us. All but one of the bottom 5 have had a change of manager in the last couple of months as a knee-jerk response to poor performances. Whilst currently we sit only just above that, my worry is that sacking Hughton would push us further down the pile not further up, when there are signs that things are improving.
With the January window open, we have a chance to make changes where needed (I think we need to be looking at a solid centre- or right-back to shore up our at times dodgy defence) and I think that will give us an opportunity to assess the feasibility of Hughton’s continuing as manager. But I’m in the camp of sitting tight and letting him get on with the job.
Ben K says
To me the answer is a simple, if conditional, one. If there is someone decent and available to bring in, we should bring them in to replace Hughton. He hasn’t been a disaster but we’ve had to suffer both poor results and uninspiring football.
To sack him without any plan as to who comes in would be a very risky course of action. I’d like to ask a different question; namely that of who the outers would bring in?