Norwich City season preview

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Ricky van Wolfswinkel: Norwich's marquee can deliver goals.AllsportRicky van Wolfswinkel: Norwich's headline signing.

What's changed since last season?
Plenty, in a word. Norwich have, at the last count, offloaded 13 players since securing their top flight status in May, with arguably only young goalkeeping prospect Jed Steer's defection to Aston Villa - after he opted to reject a new contract - the one departure not on the Canaries' own terms. Chris Hughton has also sanctioned a season-long loan move to Bournemouth for Andrew Surman that is unlikely to be the last before the league campaign is fully up and running. Club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel is the headline arrival among six new faces and a permanent deal completed for Spanish left-back Javier Garrido.

City have mixed their intelligent recruitment with forays both at home and abroad. Van Wolfswinkel's compatriot Leroy Fer has arrived from FC Twente with long-time Hughton target Martin Olsson completing a switch from Blackburn. Carlo Nash arrived on a free from Stoke as seasoned goalkeeping back-up to John Ruddy and Mark Bunn whilst Nathan Redmond looks another astute piece of business after his eye-catching displays for England's Under-21s earlier this summer. Gary Hooper's protracted pursuit finally paid dividends for Norwich in recent weeks with his switch from Scottish powerhouses Celtic following the Bhoys' refusal to trade in the January transfer window.

Key to this campaign?
Assimilating the new brigade into that core team ethic which has effectively propelled Norwich from the depths of League One to consecutive mid-table Premier League finishes. City's squad have relished proving people wrong by retaining their top flight status, but with the scale of their summer business sights will now inevitably be raised towards loftier ambitions.

Predicted finish/realistic goal
Inside the club one suspects a repeat of their two mid-table finishes would again represent progress as they attempt to consolidate in the Premier League; anywhere in that congested pack between 10th and 14th. Norwich's fan base also craves a cup run after a decade and more of under-achievement that sits uneasily with their rich cup pedigree. Last season's FA Cup home defeat to non-league Luton Town appeared to have a detrimental impact on their league progress. A long run in either of the two domestic cup competitions and a less fraught passage to Premier League safety would constitute desirable objectives.

Make or break season for...
Jonny Howson. The former Leeds midfielder needs to maintain the impressive form he produced over the defining weeks of last season's Premier League campaign. For large swathes of the season Howson was forced to bide his time on the bench as Bradley Johnson and Alex Tettey were the preferred pairing within Hughton's defensively-minded central midfield mix. Howson's sublime goals against West Brom and Manchester City in the final two league wins merely underlined that here is a player who can influence games at the top level. Howson is much more than a holding midfielder, but under Hughton's guidance there were encouraging signs he was starting to incorporate that vital dimension into his game. Manage to do that on a consistent basis and his undoubted creative potential gives Howson an edge over the majority of his midfield rivals at Carrow Road.

One to watch
Leroy Fer. The powerful Dutch midfielder has the physique and the technical quality to flourish in the Premier League. If he can adjust to the pace and the muscular nature of English football then Fer could prove a dominant figure in Norwich City's midfield. The 23-year-old's ability to operate in a defensive screening role or as a more advanced option tucked in behind a lone front man makes him a versatile asset at Chris Hughton's disposal.


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