Summer Priorities: NorwichWednesday, June 19, 2013
How did a team that opened the season losing 5-0 to Fulham, who didn't win their first Premier League match until October 20, and were beaten 4-1 by Chelsea, 5-0 by Liverpool, 4-0 by Manchester United, and 3-1 by Arsenal, end the season in eleventh place?
They did it by being tough to beat at home, and by turning enough of those home games into narrow victories. 1-0 victories against Arsenal and Manchester United are testament to the latter point. And let's face it: there were just a whole host of rotten teams this season.
Basically, they were Stoke City without the leg-breakers or cliched coverage.
That's not to say that they couldn't be entertaining. The drubbings they got from some of the bigger clubs were surely fun for those fans. But they also scored six goals against Manchester City across the season, beating them on the season's final day. Against the teams around them in the mid- to lower-reaches of the table, they were quietly effective. Very much in the image of their manager, Chris Hughton.
John Ruddy: The up-and-coming keeper firmly established himself as a top keeper, and he grabbed his chance for England as well. A thigh injury needed surgery and derailed his season, but he was able to return for the final two matches (both wins) and should be back to lead a mostly solid defence.
Sebastien Bassong: The former Spurs and Newcastle defender settled in well at Norwich and quickly became the heart of their defence. He had a purple scoring patch as well, with three important goals in four matches in late November/early December. He won the team's player of the year award as recognition of his play.
Robert Snodgrass: The Scottish midfielder is another one who took his performances for club and brought them to country as well. He was often Norwich's best attacker cutting in from the wing, and he was a good set-piece taker to boot.
Russell Martin: Another Scot who stepped up his game, and another defender who out of nowhere couldn't stop scoring goals for Norwich. Martin played well as right back, and credibly at center back as well, when needed.
Grant Holt: Yes, he was again the club's leading goal-scorer. But that can't disguise the fact that he's a player in decline. He scored half as many goals this season as last, on one-third fewer shots, despite starting more matches this season.
Anthony Pilkington: Sgt. Pilko never got started this season, mostly due to injuries that dogged him for much of the season.
Wes Hoolahan: I'm putting Hoolahan here despite all the praise he gets. He just isn't a viable fantasy player, and how can that be for a player who's supposedly the creative hub of his team?
For Norwich to advance, or at the very least to stand still, they're going to have to 1) stay hard to beat, and 2) add goals. They return most of their defence, but will need at least one starting center back and more depth. They need players in central midfield, and they desperately need goal-scorers.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel: The season's first signing was announced months ago and it's one that got a lot of people excited. van Wolfswinkel comes with a good scoring record at Sporting Lisbon and call-ups to the Dutch national team. He needs to prove himself at the next level, and Norwich are hoping that he can make that leap.
Ola Toinvonen: Another attacker with a good scoring record against lesser opposition. Toinvonen is being linked with a few clubs in the Premier League, but Norwich appear to have pole position. They just need to convice the Swede that they'll play his perfered style of on-the-ground football.
Steven Nzonzi: Nzonzi put in a transfer request at Stoke City, and is just the sort of player that Norwich need in the heart of their midfield.
Jake Livermore: Norwich have been linked to Livermore and teammate Kyle Naughton. These would be great loan signings for the club as they fill needs and bring Premier League experience with them.
Jonjo Shelvey: Another England youngster on Norwich's shopping list. Shelvey has shown flashes of real talent at Liverpool, but never with enough consistency to earn him a regular place. Brendan Rodgers' team is stocked with midfielders (or will be after this transfer window) and Shelvey would be another useful piece for the Canaries in central midfield.