6:00 AM December 25, 2021
Injury issues and Covid concerns may not be helping but Dean Smith remains optimistic about the chances of Norwich City securing Premier League survival this season.
After an initially bright start to his reign, the Canaries have lost three on the spin and scored once in their last five games to slip back to the bottom of the table.
However, an against-the-odds victory over fourth-placed Arsenal at Carrow Road on Boxing Day would move City level on points with Watford in 17th, who along with survival rivals Burnley and Leeds have already seen their game postponed.
“The task of keeping us in the league is going to be the same as when I first came into the role,” Smith said at his Christmas Eve press conference.
“As I say, I can take the Aston Villa responsibility (losing 2-0) away from the players because we had a player playing 90 minutes with a temperature of 38.4 degrees (Billy Gilmour), which is not right.
“But the games that we had played before that had been really good. Our performance levels have been up there and what we have to do is make sure that we can get a fit and healthy squad that can go and compete.
“If we can do that, then I believe we can stay up.”
Despite taking just 10 points from 17 matches, Norwich remain very much in survival contention, seven points adrift of Southampton in 15th.
“You’ve got three outstanding teams at the top at the moment, in Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, who seem to be the ones who are not getting beaten at all,” Smith continued.
“And the others at the bottom, certainly ourselves, can just look above and certainly see that there are beatable teams.
“I think our performance against Manchester United proved to us that we can be a match for anyone.”
City are bottom of the Premier League on Christmas Day though, a position just three teams have escaped from to survive since the league was established in 1992.
Smith and his assistant both have experience of relegation battles in the top flight though.
“Craig Shakespeare was in that Leicester team that did that (in 2014-15), so maybe we’ve got a good omen on our side,” he joked.
“I’ve managed to get Villa out of a relegation dogfight at Villa before as well, so we both understand the situation that we’re in and we’re both willing to fight all the way.
“We believe we’ve got enough in the dressing room if we can get that healthy squad back to go and win games.
“The biggest thing is turning those chances into goals. If we do that, we’ll win games.”