There is no doubt that this season has been rather touch-and-go for Norwich City fans.
Obviously, the last two results against West Brom and Man City have put a slightly different spin on things. They have certainly been encouraging with the performances showing the quality in the squad, but also the bravery to play attacking football.
However, it’s important to remember that the club has had a relatively poor second half of the season, and it’s important we analyse the reasons why that happened. I think we all know that a chronic lack of goals has been the main problem, and Norwich City will be looking to add quality to ensure the club aren’t involved in a relegation fight next season.
Manager Chris Hughton has already addressed the goalscoring issue to a certain extent by securing the signing of Ricky van Wolfswinkel. It has also been confirmed that on-loan defender Javier Garrido will be joining the club on a permanent basis; both of these deals have been confirmed via the official club website (canaries.co.uk).
In an interview with BBC Sport, Hughton suggested after the Man City win that they would try to strengthen the squad, but it’s very difficult. Clearly, this was simply a ploy to control the expectations of fans. The signing of van Wolfswinkel has shown that the Canaries are clearly playing a bit of a different ball game than they have previously been in.
No one really knows what kind of transfer budget we are working with this summer, and I wouldn’t want to even try to speculate on that. But we do know that’s it’s the biggest transfer budget that any Norwich manager has had, and we are now able to pay the sort of wages that will attract top talent to Carrow Road.
However, there is a 25-man Premier League squad issue to fit into this, so the number of players that come in is largely a matter of how many go out. Therefore, it’s unlikely we will be seeing a dozen or so new arrivals in the summer. Realistically, we are probably looking at four of five new players with the focus on quality rather than quantity.
The Norwich boss has pointed out that he is very happy with the quality of the squad that he currently has available to him. But at the same time, he will know that there are a number of players on the fringes of things that will go out if the right replacements can be acquired.
I think we all know that a few more players of the quality of Sebastien Bassong, Robert Snodgrass and van Wolfswinkel would make an amazing difference to this team and should mean that the Canaries can aim for European football rather than fighting relegation.
But it’s important to remember that there is another side to this, and that’s maintaining the squad that we already have here. I think we all know that Ruddy’s injury was a big blow to the season, and his presence has been important in the last two wins. Holding on to the England goalkeeper is arguably going to be Hughton’s biggest job during the summer.
It’s also fair to say that Anthony Pilkington has his admirers, and plenty of people would have been impressed with what they have seen from Bassong and Snodgrass this season.
Therefore, the Canaries have a busy summer ahead in those two main tasks. But if we start the 2013-14 season with the squad we have now plus a few quality additions, then I will be delighted. If that means that a few fringe players get more regular first-team football elsewhere, then that will probably benefit them as well.
Obviously, this has also been a very successful season for the youth team, after they won the Youth Cup this season. Some fans will be wondering if any of those players will be drafted into the first-team picture for next season. The youth system here is something that is being invested into, and there is the hope of unearthing the odd gem here and there.
If members of this season’s youth team are involved in the first team next season, then that is a great situation for the club. However, I do just worry that we will try to fill gaps in the first-team squad with untried teenage starlets.
There is no doubt that we need to invest in the team and then see if our young stars can force their way in or not. I want to see young players involved in the team because they have earned that right on merit, not because the injuries have hit and we don’t have anyone else.
I think most of us are fairly happy with the defensive options that are available, and we have seen an improvement on both goals conceded and clean sheets this season. Ryan Bennett in particular has shown his ability over the last few weeks, and we all know about the exploits of Bassong and Michael Turner. But I think one more central defender would be good, especially if Leon Barnett makes an expected summer exit.
It’s further forward in the midfield area that Hughton is likely to focus his attention. A midfielder who can keep calm possession of the football is likely to be wanted; I would have also added a goalscoring midfielder into the mix, but Jonny Howson is showing signs that he could solve that problem.
It will be interesting to see if it’s decided to add something in the wide positions. It is likely that Andrew Surman will be another player out of the door, so Hughton will want to bring a replacement in at the very least. It’s also important that we have enough options in the striking area; I think we can agree that Grant Holt and van Wolfswinkel are two players who are likely to score.
But can the same sort of faith be put in the likes of Wesley Hoolahan, Simeon Jackson and Luciano Becchio? That much is unclear, but throw another striker into the mix and things could get interesting. Either way, it should be a good and entertaining summer to be a Norwich City fan.
I maintain that if the club can do the sort of business they want to and keep the current squad together, then a top-half finish with possible European qualification should be the target for next season. It’s fair to say that it’s that level of ambition that will attract those potential summer signings in the first place.
On a final note, I think the majority of the business will be done in the foreign marketplace. Some top quality international players will take the club to the next level. However, I would expect that the focus will be in Europe rather than a total worldwide search.
Nevertheless, don’t necessarily think that it’s about finding a bargain. The signing of that Dutch striker proves that the club is possibly starting to flex its financial muscles.