Premier League: 11th
FA Cup: Fourth Round
League Cup: Quarter-finals
Norwich City head into the new Premier League season full of optimism having spent strongly and possibly wisely in the summer transfer window. Chris Hughton has reinforced his squad to the tune of over £25m, and will be looking to break into the top half of the table following an impressive eleventh place finish last time round.
The Canaries must build on last season’s notable victories over Arsenal, Everton and both Manchester clubs, while Hughton will be looking to significantly improve his side’s away form. The Canaries only won twice on the road all season, one of which was against a deflated Manchester City on the final day of the campaign. They conceded 38 goals at an average of two a game, which made securing three points incredibly difficult. Indeed the two wins against City and Swansea saw the Yellows needing to score three and four times respectively.
Last season’s player of the year Sebastien Bassong will be targeting an improvement in this area, following a blossoming partnership with Michael Turner at the heart of defence, and a decrease in the total number of goals conceded from the previous campaign. In that season John Ruddy was voted player’s player of the year, and he will return to the side after missing almost six months last time out due to injury, bringing a greater stature and presence in goal than his replacement Mark Bunn.
At the other end, new signings Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel will look to strike up a connection of their own as the manager seeks to switch the mindset of his side to a more offensive outlook. The signings Hughton has made could herald a change of system, with the Canaries usually operating with one striker last time round, which was often the now-departed Grant Holt.
Hooper will be looking to transfer his prolific goalscoring record at Celtic to the Premier League, having netted 82 goals in 138 appearances for the Glasgow club. Meanwhile van Wolfswinkel, over the past four seasons playing for FC Utrecht and Sporting Lisbon, has claimed 84 in 171. A combined strike rate of over a goal every two games ought to boost Norwich’s return of 41 goals last time round, the third lowest in the division.
The promising Nathan Redmond has been brought in from Birmingham, and is one to watch following an impressive showing at this summer’s European Under-21 championships. Dutchman Leroy Fer also caught the eye in Israel, and the signing from FC Twente has the potential to excel in the centre of the Norwich midfield.
The fixture list has been fairly kind to the Canaries in the opening half of the season, and they have the opportunity to get some decent early points on the board. It could be a similar purple patch as they went through last year, when they picked up exactly half of their final points tally in just ten games. The run-in is not quite so favourable, with the final four matches seeing clashes with Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Hughton improved upon Paul Lambert’s admirable 12th place finish in their return to the Premier League, and Canaries supporters will be hoping that they can go at least one better to finish in the top half of the table.
Manager – Chris Hughton: Harshly sacked in December 2010 by Newcastle, Hughton has shown his potential as a manager by performing well at Birmingham prior to his appointment at Norwich last summer. He focused on tightening at the back at first, but now seems set to open up a little more in attack in his second season.
Key signing – Leroy Fer: Costing under £5m, Fer could turn out to be an inspired piece of business for Norwich. He is tall, powerful and imposing, and blessed with both defensive and offensive ability. He also has an eye for a pass, and could form a strong link with fellow countryman van Wolfswinkel.
Key sale – Grant Holt: Last season’s top scorer in the league with eight goals, Holt was a crowd favourite at Carrow Road and will be missed by supporters. His sale came as something of a surprise, and the new signings will have to put the goals away early to get the fans on their side.
Keep an eye out for…Nathan Redmond: Snapped up for an initial £2m, the 19-year-old could prove to be an absolute bargain. Hughton handed Redmond his debut to at the age of 16, and has been impressed with his contribution during pre-season. He is an exciting English prospect, offering pace and the ability to beat a man.
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