After gaining promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking Norwich will be at the summit of their confidence, but how will they fare under a manager in just his second season as a manager.
Norwich’s 33 year old manager Alex Neil won 68% of his league games in charge since taking over the reigns from Neil Adams in January. The forward trident of Cameron Jerome, Gary Hooper, and Lewis Grabban has been fundamental to his teams success, although the latter was suspended for both legs of the play off semi final against local rivals Ipswich. Not many teams can boast about having three double figure strikers on their team, but it all comes with a cost. Hooper was brought in from Scottish champions Celtic for a fee in the region of £5 million, while Grabban was believed to be around the same figure. The real difference has been made by Cameron Jerome, his 21 goals have been the difference between Norwich and many other teams gunning for the dizzy heights of the Premier League. He ran his socks off in the final against Middlesbrough despite not getting a sniff after his goal in the 12th minute. Jerome is the sort of player Norwich will need in the top flight, he interprets the game very well hence his goalscoring exploits, and his vast experience with the likes of Birmingham and Stoke will settle the nerves. If the Canaries take this attacking intent into next season they should have no problem crashing in the goals that they need to keep them hovering above the dreaded drop zone.
I believe that recruitment should be left to a minimum in the defensive third, Sebastian Bassong has looked very solid this season although you can a mistake in him on a bad day, Russell Martin has marshalled the back line with confidence and regularly looks a threat from set pieces. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when Swedish full back Martin Olsson opted to stick around for another season rather than jetting off to a mid tabled Premier League club, the 27 year old has shone out in a pack of cards filled with jokers in this year’s Championship, he will be determined to make an impression in the big time next season. Improvement is certainly needed in the defence for next campaign, but they have the basics there, former defender Alex Neil will be keen to hammer in the defending drills over his first pre-season in charge.
I can’t see the point in making any drastic changes to the midfield for next season, central duo, Johnny Howson and Bradley Johnson have ran the show this season, with the latter grabbing 15 goals and the Player of the season award. Johnson has been beyond comparison to many midfielders this season, his versatility has been a blessing to Neil who played him all across the park to with the same creativity and consistency.
It’s difficult to remember that Norwich were part of the Premier League line up just one year ago, but after the sackings of Paul Lambert and Chris Hughton they couldn’t recover. After taking over 40,000 to Wembley for the play off final it is no concern that the fans will play their part, but if the team will perform the standard required.