Not many managers can take over from someone who won back-to-back promotions and then make that team better, but that’s exactly what Chris Hughton has done since replacing Paul Lambert at Norwich City.
Despite their midweek Capital One Cup quarter-final defeat by Lambert’s Villa, the Canaries are flying in 11th place with the Premier League’s longest unbeaten record, which they will try to stretch to ten games when Wigan Athletic visit this weekend.
The Latics looked set for their own managerial change over the summer before Roberto Martinez turned down overtures from Liverpool and Villa to remain at the DW Stadium.
Martinez is yet to recapture the miracle form that took Wigan to safety last season and they will go to Carrow Road in search of only their third away win this term.
As such, the home side start as 11/10 favourites in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, with a Wigan win at 12/5 and the draw a 23/10 chance.
The main way Hughton has improved Norwich is by tightening up their defensive record, already keeping more clean sheets than Lambert’s team did last year and another is 7/4.
The Canaries conceded home and away to Wigan last year but both games remained tight, finishing as 1-1 draws.
A repeat scoreline is an inviting 5/1, while another under 2.5 goal finish is 83/100.
With a close encounter in store, the opening strike will be key and Hughton has his side primed to start fast (see their three-goal salvo at Swansea) and it’s 5/4 for them to again get the opener in the first half.
Wes Hoolahan scored in both fixtures last season and new customers backing him with the free £20 bet they receive when registering with bwin would win £179 if the Irishman continues his lucky streak against the Latics with the opener.
Wigan are without both their scorers from the meetings last term: Ben Watson through injury and Victor Moses having departed to Chelsea. So Martinez will look to their replacements, last weekend’s two-goal hero James McCarthy (7/1 to score at any time) and top scorer Arouna Kone (5/2) to make a similar impact.
But given the Canaries’ current confidence and Wigan’s defensive woes (they have five centre-backs injured), I’m backing Norwich to pull off a narrow triumph and a one-goal home win – or specifically, the draw selection in the 0-1 handicap market – offers good value at 14/5.