I think we have learned a lot about the Premier League in the last few months with Norwich City. On one side, good runs of form can be put together and no side in the league is unbeatable.
However, when such a run of form comes to an end, then it can be quickly be followed by a sequence of disappointing results.
It’s fair to say that the Christmas period was not kind to the Canaries and they now have the difficult job of repairing that poor run of form. I think it’s a given that some players are not performing as well as they were earlier on in the season, and injuries have also hurt the form.
We know that Chris Hughton is not a manager that believes in rotating his squad a huge amount, so he will want a settled team with every player performing to their highest level. It seems more than likely that this will be the way to get back onto a good unbeaten run.
So, sit back and relax as I take you all through some players that need to step up their game in order to be sure of sustaining their place in the team.
I think we all know that Mark Bunn is not on the same level as John Ruddy. But it’s clearly an unfortunate situation with the England goalkeeper currently out injured. Nevertheless, Chris Hughton may not have played the keeper as often as he has if he was not the one that signed up.
Those that read my articles regularly know that I have been critical of the player. There is no doubt that he has done some things very well, but there have been times when his decisions have led to goals for the opposition.
The real question is if the comparison between he and Ruddy is really a fair one. Of course, we do have to keep in mind that our usual goalkeeper is one of the best in the Premier League. Nevertheless, our position in the league could be considerably less comfortable if Bunn had started the season instead of Ruddy.
We have already seen that Bunn isn’t capable of making some of the saves that we are used to, and lacks a level of confidence and authority that all great goalkeepers need. I would like to think that he will improve, but I do think there will be a ceiling on where he can get to.
The other thing that we need to be careful of is not stifling the progression of our two young, talented goalkeepers in Declan Rudd and Jed Steer. It is one thing to keep the two out of the team due to an England goalkeeper, but quite another for a keeper that may only be more experienced rather than actually better.
That all being said; I thought Mark Bunn put on a good show in the recent 0-0 against Newcastle United. And there is certainly hope there, especially now that he has the confidence of that first clean sheet. But I wouldn’t be against having a look at Declan Rudd in the Premier League for a game or two.
The playmaker is, probably, the one that most Norwich City fans would consider as the most talented player on the club’s books.
However, there are elements of his game that continue to frustrate fans, given the natural ability that he has.
It was somewhat bemusing that he was awarded the Man of the Match against Newcastle United. This is because it was actually a fairly poor game from the Irishman. But it seems even when he plays badly, some still think he is the best player on the pitch.
One thing that remains a consistent problem is the lack of goals that the player scores, which puts more pressure on other players to score. This 4-2-3-1 system is really set up for Hoolahan to excel; it’s unknown if Norwich would use the same system without the dynamic midfielder.
The position that he plays just off the striker means that he is in a very advanced position, and there is an onus on him to score and create goals. This is clearly something he wasn’t able to do in Saturday’s 0-0 draw, so he will need to pick up his game in order to be sure of staying in the team.
The most obvious alternative is Elliott Bennett, who can count himself as extremely unlucky to have been excluded from the starting lineup. It's a decision that may be questioned due to the poor performance that was seen from the Irishman. The fact that Hoolahan has only scored one Premier League goal this season illustrates why an improvement is needed.
Pilkington is another player that seems to frustrate fans because he is clearly capable of producing moments of genius. However, he is also capable of going missing for long periods without creating an awful lot.
This is, perhaps, a reason why the bigger clubs will not look at him at this stage because they may feel he cannot produce on a consistent basis. Therefore, the Canaries may be hoping that he has a relatively quiet January followed by explosive form for the rest of the season.
Nevertheless, he will need to pick up his game a bit to ensure that he will stay in the team.
Andrew Surman has been out in the cold for a while now, but Chris Hughton might be persuaded to bring him back at some point. Although, the midfielder is currently carrying an injury. This is also a position that Elliott Bennett is capable of filling, but the abilities that Pilkington has will, probably, be enough to keep him in the side for the time being.
Tettey was certainly an exciting proposition when he arrived in the summer, but his stock has fallen a bit since some of those early performances. It appears that he may not quite be the Yaya Toure that we thought he was, nor does he appear to be Michu in disguise.
Nevertheless, he is clearly a talented holding midfield player that can grow and develop at a club like Norwich. The partnership he has with Bradley Johnson is certainly useful, but neither player scores many goals and they have largely similar qualities.
There might be room for David Fox in that midfield somewhere, and although we might have thought Bradley Johnson would make way, it now appears that Tettey is the one that is hanging onto his shirt. The fact that the quality of possession was particularly poor against Newcastle United might prompt Chris Hughton to think that a change is needed.
Therefore, the Norwegian international will want to pick up his performances to ensure that he doesn’t suddenly find himself playing reserve team football. Of course, with the transfer window open there is also the possibility that the Norwich boss might bring in another central midfielder to keep the likes of Tettey on his toes.
Steve Morison is one of those players that Norwich City fans love to hate. This is despite the fact that he is quite a decent striker, at Championship level at the very least. But he doesn’t seem to have the work-rate that is expected of a Norwich City forward, or to put it another way, the energy of a Simeon Jackson or Grant Holt.
He did a decent job for the club in their first season in the Premier League where he largely played as a lone striker. This season Chris Hughton has clearly decided that Grant Holt is his No. 1 striker, so it has been difficult for Morison to get in the team.
Therefore, the majority of his appearances this season have come from the substitute’s bench.
We know that it’s very hard to make an impact in 10 or 15 minutes towards the end of the match. In my view, the biggest problem for Steve is he likes to be the focal point of the attack, but with Holt around the place, he is seldom given that opportunity. It is also fair to say that Hughton’s more defensive team is not exactly ideal for a striker looking for goals.
Nevertheless, the transfer market is open, and Hughton may well be in the market to add to the firepower that is currently available to his team. Morison will, therefore, want to up his performances to prove that the club do not need to spend more precious transfer funds.
But it’s worth remembering that fans will take some convincing that Morison is a suitable solution to the club’s goal-scoring problems. At the end of the day, it is only really a decent run of goal-scoring form that will be enough to convince fans that he is a viable option.