Friday, 2 August 2013

Canny Canaries- This Year's Premier League Surprise Package

As the season looms large over us, we all expect the usual suspects to be heading the table. Whilst it promises to be one of the most exciting campaigns for years, with managerial changes at the league's top 3 teams, one slipping under the radar appear to be Norwich City. Overshadowed by drama at the top, competition for the Europa league should this year be incredibly fierce, with the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham all strengthening, meanwhile Chris Hughton's business in the transfer window threatens to upset the status quo of England's Top Division.

Where better to start than last season's team. Finishing in 11th place, just 5 points behind last year's surprise package in West Bromwich Albion and only 2 behind fan's favorites Swansea, Norwich seemed to quietly slide into a solid finish above far traditionally 'bigger' clubs such as Newcastle. With good performances all season from the likes of Russell Martin, Jonny Howson and Robert Snodgrass, all chipping in with consistent goals and assists, Norwich could well lay claim to having some of the Premier League's most underrated players. Sebastian Bassong in fact picked up the fan's player of the year award, showing that they have a solid base to build from alongside England hopeful John Ruddy in the net.

Additions therefore have been mostly of an attacking and therefore exciting nature. Even at the back, the signing of Martin Olsson from Blackburn shows intent to go forward next year. An attacking, thoroughly modern fullback, he has been linked with bigger sides in the past, before Blackburn's relegation to the Championship. Not only will this provide the team with an extra attacking threat from wide, but a reliable defensive player, able to cope with the pace of many of the PL's devastating wingers.

Moving forwards, we see the addition of both Leroy Fer in central midfield and hot prospect Nathan Redmond on the wing. Fer will undoubtedly add steel to the yellow's midfield at a colossal 6ft 2, but with a record of 14 goals and 12 assists last season, could create a formidable partnership with the ever improving Johnny Howson in the middle of the park. Fer was also denied a move to higher rated Everton in January due to a failed medical. This should not make people doubt him however, as anyone can realize Stoke's mistake in denying Demba Ba a move due to a dodgy knee. Redmond meanwhile will provide pace and a direct approach, contrasting nicely with the ball playing ability of the canaries' central midfield as he seeks to prove himself one of England's hottest prospects.

Now we move on to the reason all these players have been signed. Goals win games. In order to score goals, you not only need the service which the new boys at Carrow Road are desperate to provide, but you need the strikers calm enough to put away the chances when they matter. It is here where Hughton has pulled off arguably the biggest coup of this transfer window. In signing Ricky Van Wolfswinkel for a speculated £8.5 million fee from Sporting Lisbon, Norwich have a forward who has scored 20 goals last season and 25 the year before. Some of the bigger teams in Europe have missed out hugely on a player boasting stats like these, for what has now become a fairly low fee. Its worth noting that Gonzalo Higuain moved to Napoli for a reported £34.5 million having scored 19 goals last season and 26 the year before that (cumulatively the same amount as Ricky, though admittedly in a higher standard of league). The fact remains then, that Van Wolfswinkel shows huge potential, not least in the way he is breaking onto the Netherlands international scene, having been awarded 2 full caps after representing his country at youth level.

Nor does it stop there. Alongside this new Dutch destroyer, chairman Alan Bowkett has sanctioned the purchase of Gary Hooper from Celtic. A long time transfer target for not only the club- but also numerous clubs up and down the premier league, including the now relegated and fabulously wealthy QPR- Hooper scored a fantastic 31 goals in 51 appearances for Celtic last season. Similarly to their other new striking addition, you might quibble about the standard of league, but by again signing a striker apparently in top form, Norwich are giving themselves a fantastic chance of progressing into the PL's top 10 at least.

Putting all of this together then, Chris Hughton's Norwich are going through a seismic change for the better. The selling of Grant Holt, not to take away from the fantastic service he gave to the club, signifies a change in style for the canaries and a move towards a more pleasing style of play. Under a manager who seems to have proven himself astute in the transfer window and more than capable in this league (when unfairly sacked while doing a great job at Newcastle in 2010) fans of Norwich City FC can look forward to a thoroughly entertaining and ultimately successful season.

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