October is definitely the worst month of the year. The clocks go back, the leaves fall from the trees and people begin wandering the streets dressed as axe-wielding clowns or blood-sucking vampires.
Fittingly then, it also happens to be the exact time every year that the life is sucked from City’s season.
Nearly one year ago, on October 28, City lost 2-1 at home to Derby to end an eight-match unbeaten run. Norwich were sixth going into the game – they wouldn’t be in a playoff position for the rest of the season.
Two years ago, Norwich were top of the Championship after 12 games and second after 13, before a 1-0 loss to Preston on October 22 started a five-game losing streak that resulted in City being eighth after 18 games; never again recovering a playoff spot. In 11 games, Norwich went from first to 12th, 18 points off the top.
On October 18, 2015, City were chugging along at a nice pace in the Premier League, with nine points from eight games, five points off the bottom three. Then that game happened, as City got absolutely thumped 6-2 by Newcastle. Alex Neil presumably died in horror at the final whistle to be replaced with a not-very-convincing lookalike (maybe that bloke off Gogglebox) as Norwich slumped to 16th by the end of the month, without winning a further point.
In October four years ago, City picked up three draws and a defeat back in the Championship before beating Bolton on Hallowe’en, sliding from first to sixth in the process. Despite beating the Trotters, the rot had already set in and Neil Adams was soon gone.
Note below, that Norwich’s position on October 1 was higher, in every example, than their position on November 1 and their final position.
In 20 games in October over the last four years (including this season’s two games so far), City have won four, drawn six and lost 10, amassing a cumulative 18 points – relegation form in any league. That’s an average of 0.9 points per game (ppg) over the last four and a bit Octobers, as opposed to 1.75 ppg pre-October 1.
It doesn’t quite feel as if Norwich are the subject of some spooky Hallowe’en curse though, not quite yet.
Four years ago, the club lost their new manager bounce, as it became abundantly clear that Adams wasn’t up to the job.
The year after that, Neil completely changed his philosophy after the Newcastle drubbing and City became shells of themselves, terrified to attack in numbers in case of being punished at the back.
The 2016/17 season is more of a mystery but Norwich were scintillatingly good at home right to the end, so it was their away form that tripped them up, not October.
Last year? City just had an excellent September, then reverted to type.
So what will this year bring? Norwich have already kicked off the autumn months with a draw and a defeat, slipping from fifth to ninth in the process. But, like the weather this October, the outlook is decidedly sunnier.
It’s worth pointing out that Daniel Farke’s side have not fallen apart this time around (although the month is still young!), earning a good point at Derby and being desperately unlucky to lose at home to Stoke.
October 2018’s two games have, in fact, been two of Norwich’s best performances of the Farke era, if not for goal-scoring potency but for the speed and precision with which the German’s team are now moving the ball.
You could argue Stoke deserved to win at Carrow Road for a truly outstanding defensive display, but on about 20 different occasions City were just one good pass away from carving the Potters open, with passes just millimetres off their mark. Against a centre-back pairing containing European Championship semi-finalist Ashley Williams and World Cup semi-finalist Bruno Martins-Indi, that isn’t something to be ashamed of.
There are much dodgier defences in the Championship that Moritz Leitner, Todd Cantwell and Marco Stiepermann would have unlocked last Saturday. And with Onel Hernandez now back to give Norwich more much-needed directness and our Fantastic Finn, the side is now stocked full with attacking talent. We even have a reinvigorated Alex Tettey and a solid back four (average age just 23.3) sitting behind them.
City have a settled, young and hungry squad for the first time since Paul Lambert walked the hallowed halls of Carrow Road – despite a promotion in the interim.
Of course, Forest away and Villa and Brentford at home is a tricky finish to any month, meaning October may strike City down again. If it does, let’s please call it a curse and move on. But if even October can’t stop us?
Maybe it really is our year.