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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Wolves at risk of losing talented youngster Cameron John
The talented teenager could leave Molineux Stadium this summer.
Talented youngster Cameron John is still yet to make his Wolverhampton Wanderers debut and the youngster is reportedly growing frustrated with his lack of game-time.
Despite not making a senior appearance at the Molineux Stadium, the 18-year-old is still hot property and a number of clubs are preparing to swoop for him.
A talented centre-back, who can also play on the left side of defence, John has impressed Scott Sellars’ in his Under-23 side over the past season and he may be rewarded with a move this summer that will see him rewarded with greater senior opportunities.
The Championship would suit John more than the Premier League and Brighton have also recently signed Leon Balogun from Bundesliga club Mainz, meaning the south coast side may not see John as a potential starter, but rather an addition to strengthen their squad.
Also, Wolves are close to announcing Willy Boly on a permanent deal, which could be a message to John that he is not in manager Nuno’s long-term plans. Therefore, a move to Gary Rowett’s Stoke or Daniel Farke’s Norwich seems most likely.
It would be a surprising move for Wolves to allow one of their best talents to leave the club. However, with heavy summer investments imminent, the club are more likely to be focused on bringing ready-made Premier League players to the Midlands, which could mean the youngster is better-suited finding first-team football elsewhere.
At only 18 years of age, John undoubtedly has a bright future and the growing interest of teams only showcases the raw talent that he possesses. He is a talented youngster, but he finds himself at a crossroads in his career, and it will be interesting to see what will follow with his next move.
Marcus Edwards is struggling at Norwich, but so did Harry Kane
The 19-year-old Tottenham Hotspur talent is still waiting to have an impact at Carrow Road.
Tottenham Hotspur have high hopes for their talented attacking midfielder Marcus Edwards. The 19-year-old has long been one of the names on the tip of Tottenham fans tongues when it comes to talent at the club. Back in 2016 Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino likened him to his compatriot Lionel Messi – high praise.
In January Edwards was sent out on loan to Championship side Norwich City to get some first-team experience. The idea was that Edwards would get plenty of football at Carrow Road and highlight his obvious talent. Unfortunately for the teenager and Tottenham that has not been the case.
Edwards is still waiting for his debut for the Canaries. Norwich boss Daniel Farke has criticised his lack of work off the ball. Not long after completing the signing, Farke was quoted by the Eastern Daily Press as stating:
“There is no doubt with the ball he is one of our best players. But without it, he has to grow up a bit.
“That was the reason he didn’t play for Tottenham.”
But Edwards should not be too put off if his spell at Norwich proves unsuccessful. It would not be the first time a top Tottenham talent has struggled on loan at Carrow Road. Just ask Harry Kane.
Kane joined Norwich on loan at the end of August in 2012, with the Canaries then in the Premier League. Kane played just five times for the club before he was recalled by Spurs.
Instead of letting his Norwich nightmare get him down, Kane dusted himself and got to work. The next season was his breakthrough Tottenham campaign. With 134 goals in 204 games for the club since, Kane certainly did not let the failed Norwich loan spell hold him back.
Edwards has been praised for a change in his attitude this week by Farke and perhaps he will get a chance for Norwich before the end of the season.
If not, he can look at the example set by Kane and realise a failed loan spell can be as much a learning curve as a successful one.
Tottenham fans should also remember as much, and back Edwards when he does return to Tottenham in the summer.
A project is underway at Norwich City, but is it the right one?
Outsiders looking in at Norwich City would say this has been a season of regression and underachievement at Carrow Road.
Yet, as the financial implications of relegation from the Premier League linger should Norwich fail to gain promotion – which seems increasingly likely – times are tough off the field in NR1.
Amidst all this financial pressure, the need to cut cloth has been graphically displayed through the departure of four senior players for substantial fees.
In truth, Norwich is in the process of a transition.
Previously, the club has been spearheaded by an omnipotent chief executive who oversaw everything from the football recruitment to how the club is run day to day.
Now, Norwich have adopted a more continental approach to their footballing structure, installing Stuart Webber as Sporting Director, who subsequently appointed Borussia Dortmund II coach Daniel Farke as his Head Coach.
Farke arrived in Norfolk with a label of being a progressive coach who developed young talent, playing a possession based style in the process.
He was met with a reality check as to the brutality and physicality of the division, and adeptly transformed Norwich into an outfit that could grind out results. Yet, defeat to Arsenal in the Carabao Cup saw this team endure a terrible run of form which was only halted at Christmas.
This is an experiment. A rebuild the scale of which hasn’t been seen in NR1 before and, in all honesty, it is an entirely unpredictable entity.
This season supporters have felt apathy, pride and disappointed. This was supposed to be a season of improvement and progression. Instead, this team seems to be stagnating in the division whilst selling its prized asset.
The reality is Norwich is self funding and whilst the current regime is in place, the reality is Norwich will have to sell their top talent in order to progress. See Alex Pritchard, Jonny Howson and Jacob Murphy. The parameters of the debate surrounding the current top brass at Carrow Road are there to be argued all day long.
What is abundantly clear is that Norwich need to ensure they are prepared for the difficulties lying ahead and reducing the wage bill by half, whilst attempting to fill a £30 million hole in the finances with the sales of top talent, is both logical and necessary.
Whilst the squad has changed dramatically, there is still a sense that Farke hasn’t formed a side which is capable of applying his intricate philosophy. In terms of recruitment thus far, Webber and Farke have prioritised steading a backline which leaked profusely last campaign.
With the experience of Grant Hanley and the insurgence of Christoph Zimmermann, Norwich’s reargued is a more balanced and reliable unit. Now attentions have been turned onto the other end of the pitch as Norwich’s toothless nature has been seen all too often.
When James Maddison’s reliable radar is astray, Norwich looks inept and devoid of any imagination. Offensively, the Canaries require differentiation in regards to how they offensively approach games. Norwich must retain the services of the young Englishman to keep this upward mobility discovered prior to Sheffield United.
Everything offensively positive has come through Maddison.
This is a side lacking athleticism and pace in wide areas, but also lack a striker who fits perfectly into Farke’s style.
With more bodies incoming in the days approaching, Farke should have a deeper squad at his disposal alongside some funds to recruit talent with the money gained from Pritchard’s sale.
This philosophy is still in the early days of construction. The frameworks and apparatus are still being put into place with Webber ensuring the academy is improved and there is a clear pathway for young players, like Jamal Lewis, to step up and play in the first team.
A pathway through the loan system has also been established. For a club with increasingly limited resources, Norwich will become reliant on their academy in regards to making money and improving the first team.
So where is Norwich at present?
Considering the change which has occurred from top to bottom at this football club and the constraints of the financial straitjacket in which Farke has had to operate, alongside seeing four instrumental players leaving in his first six month in charge, Norwich are left with a disjointed squad. However, Farke is doing a good job.
He has displayed he has the qualities and tactical nous to take this football club forward, and that he buys into the long term project in place. His reliance on young players will be of benefit to the football club in the long-term, while he looks set to ensure the academy is prosperous for the future.
This is a project, and one Norwich need to stick with.
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