Progress report for Norwich’s first four games of the Premier League season

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The 2015-16 Premier League season is well under way, and transfer deadline day has passed. The usual frenzied activity of deadline day has now given way to the relative calmness and tranquillity provided by the international break. This brief respite in proceedings offers a perfect opportunity to reflect on how my beloved Norwich City have started their first season back in the Premier League following their glorious promotion in May.

If somebody had said to me that after 4 games this season that Norwich would be level on points with Chelsea and one point ahead of Tottenham, I’d have called them a mad man but assumed that Norwich had made a pretty reasonable start. The truth is that Chelsea and Tottenham have made appalling starts, whilst Norwich have already been a mix of good, bad and unlucky.

If you take it on a game by game basis, you would say that poor refereeing cost Norwich a point at home to Crystal Palace, poor defending by Sunderland gifted us precious 3 points away from home, whilst an outrageously good individual performance from Jack Butland ensured we only got a point against Stoke in what could quite easily have been an absolute rout. The less said about the debacle at Southampton the better, but suffice it to say that Steven Whittaker owes us a very impressive display or two when he returns from suspension.

SEE MORE: Norwich City’s 2015/16 season preview.

The one thing that I can safely say is that I am more than happy with the performance of the manager so far. Alex Neil has done a wonderful job since taking over at Norwich, and I have the utmost faith that he has enough tricks up his sleeve to ensure that we at least put up a decent fight throughout the course of the season. The last time we were in the Premier league, I always got the impression that there was no Plan B when things were going wrong. I don’t get that impression from Neil, and so I think that we are now in safe hands.

However, I was a little concerned by our activity in the transfer window. Every Norwich fan knows that we are crying out for a little more quality in central defense. Sebastian Bassong and Russell Martin haven’t really put a foot wrong so far this season, but Martin is so blatantly a right-back and always has the odd costly error in his repertoire. The fact that we weren’t even linked with a central defender is somewhat worrying, as it is so clearly our weakest area in the side, but for now I shall trust in Neil’s judgement.

Allowing Bradley Johnson, last season’s star performer and key player, to leave for Derby County was a little upsetting, but I think that deep down even the most ardent of Norwich fan can see that he won’t be getting much game time this season, and is probably just a little shy of Premier league quality. I wish him nothing but the best though at his new club.

The magnificently named but hardly prolific Ricky Van Wolfswinkel has once again been jettisoned out on loan, and been replaced with the equally magnificently named Dieumerci Mbokani. Hopefully he can supply the goals that will keep us up this season, and with Matt Jarvis coming in on loan from West Ham, we should now have, with Nathan Redmond on the other flank, two players with decent crossing ability to provide plenty of ammo for Mbokani. Redmond himself remains our most talented and dangerous player, but will require more help from those around him.

I was pleased with the signings of Robbie Brady and Youssouf Mulumbu, but Brady is being played as a left-back until Martin Olsson returns to full fitness, whilst Mulumbu is yet to feature after breaking his foot. We will need both those players fit and firing if we are to stand a chance of survival this season.

Once everybody is fit and available, I would love to see Neil line up with the following side:

Ruddy, Wisdom, Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Tettey, Mulumbu, Redmond, Howson, Brady, Mbokani

I still think we need to strengthen in defense in order to stand any chance of staying up, but as an eternal pessimist I fear we will fall just short and finish 18th in May. We have got off to a fair start, and have four points from four games. We should really be on seven points, and as such I will give Norwich a 3.5 out of 5 for the season so far.

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