Premier League review: Norwich and Swansea impress
Alex Sharp looks back at the 10th instalment of top flight action and the League's new-boys' flying start
The tug of war for supremacy in Manchester has dominated the headlines so far this season, but a quarter through this Premier League campaign it is the newly-promoted sides who continue to impress.
Only Newcastle have managed to gatecrash the usual table-topping hierarchy, beating Stoke City 3-1 on Monday courtesy of a Demba Ba hat-trick.
But a few places further down and the Premier League new-boys are flying high. Not since 2002 have all three promoted sides stayed up – and this year they all have a genuine chance of beating the drop.
You wouldn’t look at Norwich, Swansea or QPR and say they’re definitely going down. All three lie in the top 12 of the table after 10 games and have succeeded in shocking the big boys.
The Canaries are sitting pretty in eighth having pushed United at Old Trafford and earned a draw at Anfield. With Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan spearing their attack, they are finding goals and have a resolute strength under Paul Lambert.
Norwich are a tight unit, who can rely on a goalkeeper in superb form. John Ruddy secured 10 clean sheets last campaign and his reaction save from Luis SuÃ¡rez earned his side a 1-1 draw against Liverpool last week.
Meanwhile, Swansea are attempting to find their feet in the top flight with some silky play. Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer on the wings are providing the width to get in behind sides and they have record signing Danny Graham playing himself into form and leading the line well – he’ll need to continue this if Swansea are to survive.
As with Norwich, Swansea’s defence lacks star names but this isn’t necessarily a negative. The players are fighting for each other and certainly know their roles.
QPR are erratic and lack the stability of Norwich and Swansea. Joey Barton and Adel Taarabt epitomise the situation at Loftus Road: plenty of ability, plenty of flair, but at the moment it isn’t quite flowing.
The concern for Neil Warnock is that Heidar Helguson and Jay Bothroyd won’t bag enough goals. Taarabt is a talented player but is in a rut and seems frustrated. With money bursting out of the coffers at Loftus Road, Warnock needs to add a 15-20 goal-a-season striker to his ranks.
Blackburn and Bolton were part of the promoted gang who stayed up in 2002 and they are both struggling now. Bolton have equalled the 27 goals conceded record within the first 10 games and are unable to produce form anywhere near the heights of last campaign.
Blackburn are also under the cosh, with Steve Kean losing popularity by the minute. Squandering a two-goal lead at Carrow Road will hurt Rovers and even with Christopher Samba at the back, they are looking increasingly fragile.
Another club in hot water are Wigan, who are rooted to the foot of the table and only have one win to their name this season. Roberto Martinez’s side have not improved their squad at all after narrowly escaping relegation last year. Losing Tom Cleverley is a huge loss and the club have an enormous mountain to climb.
It seems then, that the three from The Championship are faring better than some of the top flight’s more established sides. If the new boys can find fresh ways of surprising their Premier League opponents, they all have a very real chance of staying up.
A final thought on this blog once again rests with Robin van Persie. The supreme Dutchman has scored 28 goals in 27 Premier League games in 2011. That’s a strike rate above Lionel Messi and only bettered by Cristiano Ronaldo across the top leagues in Europe. Enough said.