2013/14 EPL season preview: Norwich City
Scotland international Robert Snodgrass was one of the consistent performers for Norwich City last season.
Norwich City avoided the second-season blues to finish mid-table last time out, and they’ve spent big to consolidate their place in the English Premier League.
What happened last season
A 5-0 thumping away at Fulham on the opening day of the season spelled an ominous portent of things to come for a Norwich side looking to re-establish itself back in the top flight.
French defender Sebastien Bassong was signed in the wake of that heavy defeat – he would go on to be named the club’s player of the season – but the Canaries were forced to endure the slowest of slow starts.
Not until Round 8 against Arsenal, of all clubs, did Norwich first taste victory and back-to-back thumpings at the hands of Liverpool and Chelsea suggested a grim relegation dogfight was on the cards for coach Chris Hughton and his side.
However, an unbeaten November saw the Canaries slowly begin their climb up the standings and by the time Norwich had racked up 10 wins and 14 draws for the season, they had eventually registered a respectable 11th-place finish.
What happened in the off-season
Norwich unveiled record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Technically, the wonderfully named van Wolfswinkel signed for the Canaries at the back end of last season, however the former Sporting Lisbon star has finally arrived in Norfolk with some serious goal scoring responsibility resting on his broad shoulders.
That’s especially the case now that cult hero Grant Holt has departed for Wigan Athletic, although experienced Swedish international Johan Elmander has been drafted in to offer Dutchman van Wolfswinkel some support up front.
Indeed, Norwich have drafted in several other new players in their quest to push on from the relative obscurity of mid-table.
Highly-rated youngster Nathan Redmond, ex-Celtic player Gary Hooper, experienced Swedish defender Martin Olsson and Dutch midfielder Leroy Fer all have arrived ahead of the new campaign.
Why fans should be excited about the 2013/14 season
The Canaries have opened the chequebook in an attempt to climb towards the European places.
The signing for van Wolfswinkel for a reported 8.5 million pounds is somewhat of a gamble, with the Dutch international not necessarily the most prolific of strikers during his time in the Netherlands and Portugal.
However, with Spanish wingback Javier Garrido signing a permanent deal after spending last season at the club on loan and the likes of Robert Snodgrass, Wes Hoolahan and Brad Johnson all enjoying impressive campaigns last time out, there’s no reason Norwich fans shouldn’t be excited about the challenge that lays ahead as one of England’s most popular provincial outfits attempts to keep pace with the big guns.
The main man that can carry 2013/14 hopes
Arriving with a substantial price tag can often prove a burden for high-profile foreign signings, and van Wolfswinkel will be expected to adapt quickly to the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.
Should the Dutch striker fail to find his feet, then Hoolahan could hold the key to Norwich’s attacking hopes.
The Irish international has already been inducted into Norwich City’s Hall of Fame and the 31-year-old creative talent was in a rich vein of form last season, combining well with top scorer Holt and fellow attacking talent Snodgrass.
If Hoolahan can keep his somewhat fragile physique intact, he will be expected to strike up a similarly productive partnership with new man van Wolfswinkel in the final third of the pitch.
Verdict – Mid-table
Former Newcastle and Birmingham tactician Hughton appears safely ensconced in the Norwich hot seat and he’s moulded a battle-hardened unit at Carrow Road.
The decision to loosen the purse strings is a gamble for a club with a reputation for sensible fiscal management, but if it pays off then fans of the Canaries should expect to cement a place in the top half of the table this time around.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
For every NRL game of 2014 on demand on your tablet and mobile, there's only one app. Sign up here for your free trial of the official NRL app, brought to you by Telstra.