Premier League Preview - Norwich City
MANAGER: Chris Hughton
STADIUM: Carrow Road (27033)
LAST SEASON: 12TH
A Paul Lambert-inspired Norwich City took the Premier League by the scruff of the neck and both they and Swansea City took the top flight to task with a succession of good results in the early offing last season. In Grant Holt, Lambert had a man possessed, a journeyman forward on the brink of the England squad, while helping to bolster his club`s ever-growing league reputation.
Towards the end of the season, matters waned somewhat. Lambert was being linked with every vacancy going, City`s form started to slip but by and large they had got themselves away from the danger zone and comfortable in their lower half position - ready to fight another day, albeit the lure of Aston Villa forced the departure of their leader Lambert.
IN: Robert Snodgrass (Leeds, £3m), Michael Turner (Sunderland, undisclosed), Jacob Butterfield (Barnsley, undisclosed), Steven Whittaker (Rangers, free)
OUT: Andrew Crofts (Brighton, undisclosed), Adam Drury (Leeds, free), Aaron Wilbraham (Crystal Palace, free), Zak Whitbread (Leicester, free), Josh Dawkin (released), Daniel Ayala (Nottingham Forest, loan)
Norwich are now without Lambert and have a new manager at the helm in Chris Hughton. Long-time number two at Spurs and Newcastle United, the former Birmingham City boss took the leap from the midlands after a season of European adventure but ultimately fruitless in terms of domestic ambition.
Remaining in the Championship, Hughton moved over to Norwich where another crack at the top flight was enough to lure the boss, but he will have a tough task on his hands to keep his current squad together and playing the effective football that served them so well in the opening stanza of the Premier League last season.
KEY PLAYER: Grant Holt
It has become very apparent that Holt will be pivotal to the chances of City this season - a forward that has now chosen to stay at Carrow Road after initially requesting to leave. If he applies his undoubted qualities then City will stand a good chance of remaining a Premier League side - if however he has his doubts and his performances suffer, I have no doubt that Norwich will too.
This is not to call Norwich a one man team, but it is clear to see the influence that Holt has on the supporters and his fellow player - should he underperform, it could spell danger for the Canaries.
Hear me out here City fans. I genuinely do not want this to happen as I have a great respect for Norwich as a club. It was a tough call who to place in the drop zone and I cannot look beyond Norwich given the loss of Lambert - a disappointment that could prove to be the most pivotal in terms of their overall standing - and a group of players playing under an unfamiliar manager who played above themselves in terms of last season.
It all adds to a decidedly shaky recipe and City for my money will be in the shake-up come the end of the season.
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