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May 12, 2014

End of season review: Norwich

Norwich embarked on third Premier League campaign with genuine optimism that they could target more than an annual skirmish with relegation. Two previous mid-table finishes and a club record transfer outlay to recruit players with the international pedigree of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer was expected to produce upward mobility. Instead they slipped tamely out of the division after former manager Chris Hughton was jettisoned just five matches from the end in a desperate attempt to reverse the decline. Norwich were the lowest scorers in the division despite spending upwards of 13 million pounds on a new strike force.

Star Pupil

Martin Olsson was the pick of the new intake. The Swedish international was the only player who arrived during that record splurge who remotely hit a consistent seam of form. His aggressive, attacking forays down the left offered a productive outlet and his athleticism and tenacity in defensive situations won him plenty of admirers. He also had the appetite for a battle as he played through a damaged shoulder problem for the last few months that now requires summer surgery.

Detention

It may seem harsh to single out one individual in a collective failure, but van Wolfswinkel's price tag and his huge reputation as a prolific scorer on his arrival in Norfolk triggered unfulfilled expectations. Van Wolfswinkel's style clashed with Hughton's cautious approach and the experiment produced just one opening day debut goal in 25 Premier League appearances. The Dutch international could not even make the bench for the finale against Arsenal as new boss Neil Adams preferred academy prospect Jamar Loza.

Teachers' notes

The timing of Hughton's dismissal so close to the end of the campaign will have surprised many further afield, but there was a general sense of disenchantment for many months shared by a growing number of Norwich supporters. Hughton's pragmatic, defensively-orientated mindset kept City in the division in his first season, but the experienced campaigner was unable to deliver the growth both the Canaries' board and support craved. Norwich were too passive and rigid in their outlook and on the days when they looked at their most vulnerable they suffered humiliating defeats to the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool.

Final grade

E -- Plenty of effort and endeavour but Norwich were relegated because they failed to produce any genuinely consistent run of positive results. City possessed a squad that was good enough to survive, but they failed to adequately integrate all of the new players purchased 12 months ago. Norwich aim to appoint Hughton's successor in the coming days after a failed short-term experiment with Adams. His first task will be to refresh a squad capable of plotting an instant Premier League return.

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