Whilst the Premier League was awash with off-field sentiment during the final knockings of last season, some on-pitch matters went by unnoticed. Other than the ten goals shared between West Brom and Manchester United on the final day, a couple of other score-lines stood out, mainly the final two games involving Norwich City. The Canaries turned over Manchester City 3-2 at the Etihad in their concluding fixture, and that was just a week after thumping West Brom 4-0 at Carrow Road.
Granted, neither of their opponents had much to play for, but having watched the games back, Norwich were superb in both encounters. They were incisive and assured in their passing, astute in their pressing and clinical in front of goal. After some dark days during 2012/13, those fans who don the famous green and yellow would have been mourning the end of the campaign with their team performing so admirably. It will have been a summer of heightened anticipation for those supporters, who are no doubt itching to see if those showings are a flash in the pan, or a genuine indication of things to come.
The club’s universally popular gaffer Chris Hughton has done all he can to make sure his team carries that form into next season with some excellent summer dealings. Having secured the signing of Sporting Lisbon forward Ricky Van Wolfswinkel before the end of last season, the former Newcastle and Birmingham boss has continued to act swiftly in the market, promptly addressing some of the weaknesses within his squad.
Martin Olsson, Leroy Fer, Nathan Redmond and Gary Hooper have followed Van Wolfswinkel through the Carrow Road door, with a summer spending spree totaling circa £20m. That is seriously big money for a club like Norwich; a major statement that they are here to stay in England’s top division
The deals have added fuel to the excitement already festering within the Norwich fanbase, and they will be keen to see their new stars in action. The most impressive facet of Hughton’s transfer dealings are the crystal clear logic behind each of them.
Having drawn 14 games last season, one of the Canaries biggest issues was a lack of firepower in the attacking third of the pitch. Talisman and previous top scorer Grant Holt failed to build on a solid debut Premier League season and toiled for long parts of the last campaign. Subsequently he has been moved on, although his hero status with the Norwich supporters will undoubtedly remain intact.
Putting sentiment aside, Hooper and Van Wolfswinkel both represent considerable upgrades on Holt. The new boys are both sharp, mobile and clinical strikers who have challenged for league titles and scored goals in European competition. Whether or not they can adapt to the Premier League immediately remains to be seen, but their respective goalscoring records at previous clubs suggest goals will ultimately follow. Hughton will be hoping their predatory instincts can help turn a few of those draws into victories.
Looking to play the role of provider for this revamped strike force will be Nathan Redmond. The dynamic winger worked with Hughton previously in their time at Birmingham and as such the manager will be well aware of what they England U21 international has to offer: pace to burn, trickery and a very direct playing style.
Having sometimes looked a side devoid of any of these aforementioned qualities last season, Redmond will give Norwich an added attacking dimension. The Canaries have occasionally looked lopsided in their attacking playing, as they have attempted to utilize Robert Snodgrass’s excellent form down the right flank. Redmond, who operated primarily down the left in his time at Birmingham, will give Norwich a symmetrical threat from wide areas and the team will look considerably more balanced as a result.
At just 19 years old, expect Hughton to use his new acquisition carefully. As with the club’s two new strikers, the supporters will have to be patient with their youngest of the summer signings.
Fer, a player who came close to joining Everton for £8 million in January, has also been snapped up in a cut-price £4.5 million deal. The Dutchman looks set to sit alongside Jonny Howson in midfield, and he will provide an athletic presence in the centre of the park for the Canaries. His somatotype and physicality suggest that he should have little problem taking to the robust nature of the English game.
Olsson, too, is a shrewd capture. Experienced in the Premier League, he will provide competition for Javier Garrido in the left back slot. He will look to start in a Norwich back four that is looking increasingly solid, especially with centre backs Michael Turner and Sebastian Bassong both impressing throughout last season.
In terms of outgoings, Hughton has done well too. As already mentioned, Holt has moved on, but no other first team players have been shown the door. Not to mention, the club were able to keep hold of John Ruddy despite strong interest from Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. Having missed a large chunk of the last campaign, the England goalkeeper’s return will provide a massive boost for the Canaries.
Overall, it gives the team a very solid looking spine. Plus with further high profile names like Fabio Quagliarella and Toby Alderweireld linked, Hughton may well add to his squad further before their season opener. The Norfolk outfit look set to build on their 11th place finish from the last campaign, and a foray into the Premier League’s top half would represent a fantastic season for the club. After the summer this great club has had, it is certainly not beyond them.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball