Why Jonny Howson Has Been Norwich City's Least Effective Player This Year
It's fair to say that this season hasn't quite gone the way that Jonny Howson might have imagined it would.
In fact, so impressive were Howson's displays, that then manager Paul Lambert compared his midfield maestro to Barcelona's Andrés Iniesta following a typically all-action performance in a 2-2 draw with Everton towards the back end of last season.
Despite Lambert's departure in the summer, the stage was set for Howson to kick on once more and establish himself as one of the Premier League's finest prospects, but for whatever reason, such a storyline just hasn't materialised.
In truth, Howson has looked a shadow of the player he was only a few months ago.
The praise has dried up, and the confidence has been drained out of a player who must be wondering just where it has all gone so wrong.
For a player brought into the club to contribute goals from the centre of the park, the 24-year-old has come up woefully short this season having still not managed to get himself on the score sheet.
Add that to his tally of just one assist in the same period, and it's apparent to everyone that Howson has struggled to make any sort of impression in his second season of Premier League football.
It's been a constant struggle for the Morley born player to find form or consistency, going from one of the first names on the team sheet to nothing more than a bit part figure.
You can bet that no one will be more frustrated than Howson with regards to the poor performances that have stunted his progression, especially considering his superb start to life in Norfolk.
In Howson's defence, a change of manager couldn't have come at a worse time for him.
During his brief spell under the guidance of Paul Lambert, Howson was given license to attack from midfield, but in comparison, Chris Hughton has often deployed the former Leeds man in a defensive role.
It's obvious that such a position doesn't suit Howson's strengths and as such, Bradley Johnson and Alex Tettey have rightly been the preferred choice to occupy the two defensive midfield slots for the majority of the campaign.
You would suspect that it's been the toughest period of a career that has been travelling in the right direction ever since Howson first made his name as a fresh-faced local lad at Elland Road.
Despite his evident struggles, in the Canaries battling 1-1 draw against Sunderland, there did at least seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Howson enjoyed one of his best performances in a Norwich shirt in recent memory, finally starting to look like the player we all know that he can become.
He worked tirelessly in both defence and attack, and was a pivotal figure in helping Chris Hughton's men claim a truly valuable point.
Perhaps even more significantly, Howson's seemingly faulty passing radar appeared to be showing signs of returning to its former glory at the Stadium of Light.
Looking at Howson's passing contribution in the final third against the Black Cats (courtesy of FourFourTwo Stats Zone), the midfielder produced a far more assured display than he produced in the previous week's draw with Southampton.
Against the Saints, Howson was wasteful in possession as the Norwich midfield unit struggled to gain a foothold against their impressive opponents whilst in the clash with Sunderland, he was able to have far more influence on the game.
Of course, it would be naive to assume that it was a perfect display by Howson, but it was undeniably a step in the right direction.
If the Canaries can get their No.8 firing on all cylinders again, there's no doubt that they have a seriously talented player at their disposal for years to come.
Writing off this season may be the best policy for both Howson and the club in the summer, and with a break behind him, there's no reason why the midfielder can't get back to his best in time for the start of the next campaign.
It's been a tough year, but the time may have come for Howson to show the world just how good he really is.
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