He poses the question, who would win if Chris Hughton’s Class of 2013/14 played Daniel Farke’s Class of 2019/20? His conclusion is perhaps not what you’d expect…
Chris Hughton. Two words that make most Norwich fans shudder. You mention that name and nine times out of ten you will get similar responses – ‘never got the best out of his players‘ … ‘tactics were too negative‘ …blah blah blah.
Now, I’m not one for advocating Hughton’s tactical approach and my opinion is pretty much exactly like everyone else’s. I always thought that Hughton’s strategies and philosophy didn’t suit the players we had available at City during his tenure.
Cast your mind back to the 2013/14 season (be afraid of the big, bad Wolf!) and you scratch your head wondering how we ended up being relegated with a team that included the likes of Leroy Fer, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Nathan Redmond et al.
But people seem to forget what happened a year prior to that disastrous campaign that led to Hughton’s sacking and relegation to the Championship.
Hughton guided City to an 11th place finish in the best league in the world – a feat which has not been bettered since, and which was their best-placed finish since the famous campaign of 1992/93. A great achievement. Not to mention masterminding some famous results in that season too.
Despite a typical hammering from Fulham at a beautifully sunny Craven Cottage on the first game of the season, Hughton managed to secure famous victories over Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton at home, a fabulous 3-2 win at the Etihad, courtesy of some Jonny Howson magic, and also managed to stay unbeaten in the league during in the months of November and February in. He really did excel himself during that season.
And all of this got me thinking – would that squad beat Daniel Farke’s 2019/20 outfit, which has so many times been told it’s too good to go down and may even be the “best bottom of the league side” in Premier League history?
Based on the number of appearances, Hughton lines up with the 4-5-1:
❖ Bunn; Russ, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Pilkington; Hoolahan; Holt.
By comparison, Farke’s 4-2-3-1 offers attacking options in abundance:
❖ Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Godfrey, Lewis; Tettey, Trybull; Buendia, McLean, Cantwell; Pukki.
If we’re going man-to-man comparison, you’d have to say Tim Krul would be ahead of Mark Bunn (poor John Ruddy with his injury in that campaign!). No disrespect to Bunn, but I do feel Ruddy would have secured a top ten finish for City that season and would also be ahead of Krul in this selection. However, Krul takes it.
Hughton 0 Farke 1
Defensively, Hughton’s team was more solid, conceding 58 goals in the entire campaign. Farke’s team, on the other hand, has already conceded 52 goals this season, with still a quarter of it left to play. Russell Martin was a force to be reckoned with that season and Bassong took the Barry Butler Trophy too – they showcased the strength we possessed in that defence that season.
Defensive injuries have taken their toll on Norwich City this season, and at one stage led to them only having one centre-back able to play, and he was carrying a hernia! But we’ve seen on many occasions this season that City have found it difficult to prevent teams from having shots on goal. A lack of awareness at set-pieces has also added to the woes, meaning frailties have been evident in that backline. Hughton takes this one.
Hughton 1 Farke 1
However, moving into the midfield gives Farke a chance to shine.
Alex Tettey (the only player to have played under both managers) and Tom Trybull offer a lot of grit and determination to shield the defence, better than that of Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson – both of whom were more apt at attacking.
And with Farke having an attacking trio of Buendia, McLean and Cantwell at his disposal, I do think that the midfield would overshadow Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington, despite their incredible set-piece abilities. A point to Farke to retake the lead.
Hughton 1 Farke 2
But will Hughton peg Daniel back immediately? An attacking duo of Wes Hoolahan playing behind Grant Holt worked wonders in that campaign. Holt had such a pivotal role under Hughton in holding the ball up and linking in the magician and the wider players either side. Holt only scored eight goals that season – his lowest tally in what would turn out to be his last in yellow and green – but his work rate made up for that.
We know the relationship between Wessi and Hughton was never the smoothest, but that didn’t stop him from being threatening at every opportunity.
Alternatively, you could choose the lone striker that is Teemu Pukki. Eleven goals this season, albeit the majority coming before the turn of the year, still speaks volumes about a team sitting bottom of the league. Teemu’s prowess is highlighted by the fact that the rest of the squad combined has only scored 14 goals between them.
A total of 25 goals altogether, however, is actually a worrying sign. Holt was City’s top scorer during 2012/13 with eight as mentioned, but City still managed to hit over 40 goals in the campaign. For me, Hughton pulls level.
Hughton 2 Farke 2
Now, the league has changed dramatically in recent years – inflated prices, more competitive sides, the incredible rise of some teams. You could argue the league is more competitive now – look at Leicester and Wolves now in comparison to that 2012/13 season.
But all things considered, and despite the close nature between the two sides in their comparisons, and also regardless of what you think about Hughton, he got his tactics spot on that season.
It’s a shame it couldn’t have been built on the season after, however if that didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have the players and be in the positive financial position we’re in now.
Ask me another day and I’ll probably argue that Farke’s side would hammer them! But on this fine day in Norfolk, as I write this while basking (and burning) in the glorious sunshine, I have to say, Hughton edges it. Just.
Final score: Hughton 3 Farke 2
Let us know what you think…