With the first few rounds of this years Premier League season behind us, (in fact we are more than 1/5th through the campaign), we are already starting to get a sense of which teams can feel confident about the coming months, and which sides might need to do some serious spending in January.
Even though it is of course still extremely early in the year, the three clubs promoted in the summer have already given us a taste of what they have to offer. All three look as if they have a reasonable chance of survival, with none of them so far cut adrift at the bottom, or even in the relegation zone. This is not to say it will be easy, far from it, but by all getting that crucial first win fairly early on they have given their supporters and everyone at the clubs a boost. While I do think that all three look capable of springing a surprise this year, Norwich are the team I expect to do best.
For a start, they have goals in their side, and plenty of them. Cameron Jerome, Nathan Redmond, Jonny Howson from midfield, Matt Jarvis off the wing (and even Northern Irish scoring sensation Kyle Lafferty if they’re desperate), are all eminently capable of scoring plenty of goals this year, especially with the creative influence of midfield magician Wes Hoolahan, as well as the aforementioned Redmond and Jarvis. This is one of the most crucial ingredients for any promoted club – goals equal wins, and enough wins equals staying in the promised land.
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Their manager is also a reason why I can see them ending the season comfortably in mid-table. Alex Neil came down from Scotland, and if reports are to be believed, blew the cobwebs off a club that was in danger of feeling sorry for itself after relegation and wallowing in self-pity.
His record since arriving at Carrow Road is outstanding, with their away form last year and mostly so far this season being exceptional.
A no-nonsense manager who has a ferocious work ethic and high expectations of his team, his biggest achievement must surely be to get a group of fairly experienced players to all buy into his ideas despite his age; he is after all a mere 34-years-old. To be able to assert your authority over a group of players who have mostly played in the Premier League and some for their countries takes plenty of determination and character.
Their defence also looks reasonably solid, as was in evidence when they overwhelmed fellow newly-promoted side Bournemouth 3-0 at home recently. The space and time which the Cherries gave Norwich is something they will have to work on over the next few weeks or their goals-against column could start to get a little out of control.
Norwich, on the other hand, base their whole game on stout defending; Russell Martin, Sebastien Bassong and Robbie Brady all look easily capable of defending well at this level, and they are screened by a hard-working midfield that will dominate plenty of sides in the middle of the park this year, Jonny Howson and Alex Tettey to name just two.
Their home form will also, I believe, give them an excellent chance of properly competing this season, with their home fans consistently labelled some of the best in the Championship last year. The ability to get behind their team and inspire them on to excellent performances at Carrow Road is a priceless tool that the Canaries must utilise as much as possible. They must turn their ground into a fortress, attempt to intimidate the big sides when they come to town, as well as blowing their immediate rivals away.
While making predictions is so often a mug’s game, and often an act that can make one look a little foolish, I am happy to suggest that if all the factors mentioned above can come together for Norwich, the Canaries will be flying high once again.