Norwich City manager Alex Neil has been hard at work over the summer singling out targets in a bid to propel the Canaries back to the Premier League at the first attempt after the setback of relegation to the Championship in 2015/16.
Having already lost key wide-man Nathan Redmond over the summer, Neil has been looking to bolster his options, and when Tottenham Hotspur youngster Alex Pritchard’s deal to sign for Brighton was stalled by traffic of the M25, Norwich made their move to hijack the transfer, and persuaded the youngster to renege on signing for the South Coast club, Pritchard subsequently penning a four-year deal at Carrow Road.
The creative young winger came through the ranks at Spurs after leaving West Ham as a 15-year old and having spent the majority of his career at White Hart Lane out on loan to Football League clubs, he had become highly rated amongst the Tottenham contingent due to his form in the lower leagues, and was the subject of wide interest when Spurs made him available for transfer. Now in the famous yellow and green, what can the youngster bring to the table for Norwich?
Pritchard already has proven pedigree in the Championship. Following two fruitful spells on loan with Peterborough United and Swindon Town, Pritchard spent a season on loan with West London club Brentford in 2014/15, notching 12 goals and registering a further seven assists for Mark Warburton’s team as the Bees reached the Championship playoffs. They were eventually overcome by Middlesbrough, but the youngster had put his name out and proven himself that extra level up. Pritchard found last season tougher going having missed a large part of the campaign through injury, and struggled for form and football when loaned out to West Bromwich Albion, so maybe a spell at an ambitious Championship club is just the right move for the player to obtain regular first-team football rather than dive straight back into the deep end of the Premier League.
After four loans away from North London, a permanent move away from White Hart Lane would always be best for the player regarding his long-term development, since he can finally settle down in more stable surroundings and play first-team football more regularly. And Norwich will offer that, and he will likely slot straight into the void left behind by Nathan Redmond.
Given his creative presence, Pritchard will contribute to Norwich’s attacking crux as Redmond did, featuring on his preferred left side of an attacking three or a four man midfield, using his skill, pace, and trickery to create opportunities. He is also a proficient set-piece taker, exhibited by some of his goals from free-kicks during his spells out on loan in League One, an area from which Norwich from direct attempts at goal or providing service to forwards or tall defenders like Russell Martin, Sebastien Bassong, Steven Whittaker or Martin Olsson may well look to profit.
So there is no doubt of Pritchard’s potential to force himself into the first-team reckoning at Norwich given their lack of wide options. The Swans only managed 39 goals in their 38 Premier League games last season, but with their top scorer in Dieumerci Mbokani having departed providing the biggest contribution of seven, Neil has been needing extra creativity to get his misfiring centre-forwards hitting the target- and indeed he may look to coax more goals from his wider players to distribute the load, and after Pritchard netted 12 in the Championship at Brentford, there is plenty of reason to suggest that the youngster may well be capable of a reasonable goal return for the club in the second tier, to help relieve some of the pressure on Steven Naismith and Wes Hoolahan up front.
Having steered Norwich to promotion in 2014/15 but finding the Premier League a step too far, Alex Neil will be determined to go again in the Championship and ensure that if they reach the Premier League again they are able to cling onto their coveted top-flight status. To help match these ambitions, strength in depth is necessary for Norwich and in the case of wide areas in need of strengthening, Pritchard on paper seems a good fit and the prospect of regular first-team football and a chance for the youngster to really concentrate on his game may make it a match made in heaven for both the player and his new employers.
Norwich have experienced wide men in Matt Jarvis and Robbie Brady whose influence will benefit the up and coming Pritchard, though the youngster also has age on his side and even if he initially encounters trouble bedding into his new surroundings, dislodging more experienced players and re-adjusting to regular football, he can expect to see himself in the first-team picture the longer he remains at the club and as he begins to peak with age he may well prove an astute acquisition for the long-term as well as immediate future at Carrow Road. If he does prove a big hit, Norwich will be thanking their lucky stars for London traffic.
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