Norwich City 2015/16 Premier League Season Preview
Norwich completed the rarest of rare feats last season, bouncing back into the Premier League at the first time of asking after relegation in the 2013/14 season. Finishing 18th and slipping into the relegation zone only as the season drew to a close, Norwich completed good business in the off-season with Snodgrass and Fer leaving for big fees. Cameron Jerome and Lewis Grabban were brought in and hit 30 goals between them as Norwich finished 3rd before winning promotion through the play-offs. Norwich have spent this summer strengthening the side in key areas, and with exciting young manager Alex Neil at the helm, they will be looking to enjoy the 2015/16 season as much as possible; their 25th in the top flight.
Story of Last Season
Last season wasn’t so much a season of two halves for Norwich, as a season of four quarters. They were strong for three of those quarters, for the other; around October in particular November, they stuttered. That stutter was enough to do for manager Neil Adams who departed in January with The Canaries 7th in the table, having begun October at the top of the league. Delia Smith decided his egg was boiled after two months of poor results. New manager Alex Neil arrived from Hamilton Academical. His stewardship and strong performances in the second half of the season from Cameron Jerome, Bradley Johnson and Wes Hoolahan helped push Norwich back up the table and to eventual play-off success.
Robbie Brady: The £7 million signing from Hull is Norwich’s banner purchase of the transfer window so far. The Tigers made Norwich work hard for his signature, demanding a significant improvement over the original offer. The Yorkshire side were right to do so, as the 23 year old has a promising career in front of him and has already established himself as a member of the Republic of Ireland’s international set up.
Graham Dorrans: At 28, Graham Dorrans is already a wily old fox with bags of experience in the Premier League with West Brom. He spent February onwards on loan at Norwich last season, impressing before joining the East Anglian outfit on a permanent £3 million deal this summer.
Youssouf Mulumbu: The Congolese international is another signing from West Bromwich Albion, and another with bags of experience after a couple of hundred appearances for the midlands side. A former player of the year during his stint at The Hawthorns, it can be argues that he still has his best years ahead of him.
Andre Wisdom (loan): Not that I want to suggest Alex Neil only did a single scouting trip last year, but Andre Wisdom; a season long loan signing from Liverpool, spent last year at The Baggies too, playing 24 times. The 22 year old right back is a promising talent who has captained England at youth level.
Jake Kean: Alex Neil’s fifth signing of the summer is 24 year old keeper Jake Kean, signed from Blackburn as a back-up for unanimous first choice John Ruddy and second choice Declan Rudd.
Cameron Jerome: Jerome was Norwich’s top scorer last season and with more than 400 career appearances to his name, they will be looking to him to lead from the front next season. Seven years in the Premier League with Birmingham, Stoke and Crystal Palace ought to stand him in good stead, but a goal return of around one in four is; while consistent, evidence that he will need support from elsewhere if Norwich are to stay in the division.
Bradley Johnson: Bradley Johnson could well be where some of those goals will come from to assist Jerome’s endeavour. Norwich’s Player of the Season last term scored 15 in the league, in fact just five fewer than the former Birmingham forward. Johnson was a consistent performer for The Canaries during their last spell in the Premier League and they will doubtlessly be leaning on him again, both as a creative force in midfield and as one of the more experienced players in the side.
Vadis Odjidja: Struggling for fitness in his first campaign for Norwich, the Belgian international was limited to just three first team appearances last season. Nonetheless, the midfielder possesses a big reputation in his native country, having been a stand-out performer for Club Brugge. The Premier League could be the stage he needs to show what he is capable of in England.
In Alex Neil, Norwich have one of the more intriguing managers in the Premier League. The Scot was just 33 years old and with less than two years management experience when he became the boss at Carrow Road in January. Nevertheless, he brought with him a degree of stability to a rapidly wavering side. Securing promotion with 17 wins and just three losses from his 25 games in charge has further cemented proof of his ability. As with all managers, the true test of his quality will come when the situation appears grim. The Premier League is a tough division and next season will be a hard campaign for sure. Will he possess the managerial acumen to execute a plan B if plan A fails to work? We will probably know one way or the other by Christmas.
First Six Fixtures
Crystal Palace (H), Sunderland (A), Stoke (H), Southampton (A), Bournemouth (H), Liverpool (A)
As opening sets of fixtures go, Norwich have come off relatively lightly. Less like a baptism of fire, more a baptism of slightly too hot bath water. Only in trips to Southampton and Liverpool would you be tempted to write off Norwich completely and while a trip to Sunderland might be a difficult prospect, home games against Palace, Stoke and fellow new-comers Bournemouth are the bread and butter of a Premier League season. You have to be picking up points in those games or else your campaign is going to be a very bleak one.
Crystal Palace were revitalised under Alan Pardew during the second half of last season but significant changes over the summer will mean they go into the first day of the season the same way as everyone else – wondering how good they are. Norwich could well cause an upset here and steal all three points.
A point a piece at Sunderland and at home to Stoke could see the Canaries start the season quite strongly but the following three fixtures will test them far more. It is entirely possible that three defeats will send them running into October with their tail between their legs.
Norwich should be happy to come out of their opening six fixtures with anything more than five points. It is going to be a tough season but one where they should be able to provide the occasional upset.
Final Standing Prediction – 19th
The Premier League can be brutal and increasingly, very tight at the bottom. The Carrow Road side performed well in the Championship but their weaknesses did show at times during the season and while they have strengthened this summer, they need everyone to be firing consistently to compete over the course of a top flight season. I predict that they will not miss out on safety by a great deal, but it will eventually prove too difficult to rise above the relegation mire.
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