Last season Norwich City and Stoke were companions in dourness as their goal-shy attacks saw them hold on to top flight status with grim determination. 2013/14 looks to be a brave new dawn for both clubs, thanks to a squad overhaul and manager change respectively and at present Norwich look to have more to be encouraged about.
Stoke are 8/11 favourites to win in a Premier League match bet with the Canaries (evens) in 2013/14, which will mean turning the tide of the last campaign when they finished two points and two places adrift of the East Anglians.
After finishing 12th and 11th in the first two of their five consecutive seasons at the top domestic level, the Potters had failed to clamber beyond the 13th rung for the last three campaigns.
Perhaps it was this vague sense of losing momentum that caused the board to give Tony Pulis the elbow after several successful years in charge, but new man Mark Hughes comes in having truly impressed in just two of his five managerial roles to date.
At Stoke he has inherited a squad forged by Pulis’ attritional footballing philosophy, that he must reform in his own image and there is the suspicion that the powers of alchemy his predecessor’s endeavour-over-elegance-style possessed may have created a team that was far more than the sum of its parts.
There has been little sign of a sharpening of what was the division’s poorest attack last term either, with Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones linked to moves away from the Britannia and full-backs Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa his only major signings to date.
The same cannot be said for Norwich, who have recruited Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel – scorers of 51 goals between them last term – and their high-class signings haven’t stopped there.
Dutch international Leroy Fer and Blackburn defender Martin Olsson have also joined to strengthen a squad which had – like Stoke’s – been operating at a kind of Championship-plus quality level for the past two campaigns.
Neither club has had a brilliant pre-season, both losing to MLS opposition on American tours and outside the newly promoted teams Norwich (3/1) and Stoke (10/3) are the shortest priced sides for relegation.
However, whereas as Mark Hughes must rebuild a decaying empire in the Potteries, the Canaries have continuity under the helmsmanship of their manager and whilst it may take some time for their new birds to be comfortable with their parts in Hughton’s harmonious composition, it is the Carrow road outfit that seems to be moving in the right direction.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.