Following the deflating 3-0 defeat to Sunderland at the weekend, fingers are being pointed at a number of factors that have been contributed to Norwich’s disappointing return to the Premier League.
For weeks now, the failings of the board in the transfer market have been cited as one of the major reasons for our current scenario and it has been confirmed by the club that they tried and failed to sign a number of players in the summer transfer window.
The acquisition of Timm Klose and the impact he has made underlined the desperate need for a better centre-back. For every fan in attendance in recent weeks it has been overwhelmingly refreshing to see a Norwich defender in so much control of the opposition’s attack and for the first time in a plethora of Premier League games, fans had confidence in the team’s ability to keep a clean sheet.
Klose being ruled out for the rest of the season was a killer blow in what ended up being a torrid week for City fans. A drab away performance to Crystal Palace, a deflating loss to Sunderland and the thought of Seb Bassong leading the line for the final four games hasn’t filled the fans with much confidence.
Listening to Canary Call on the way back from the game on Saturday I found myself thinking more and more about the board’s admission that they did indeed try to sign players in the summer window but for undisclosed reasons those signings didn’t come to fruition.
Well, based on the Robbie Brady saga those reasons appear to be obvious.
When Norwich first went in for Brady their bid was met with derision from Steve Bruce. I recall him stating that Norwich’s initial bid was an “embarrassment”.
This seems to be our general approach in the market and it makes me question whether the Benik Afobe bid was perhaps dealt with in the same manner?
I don’t subscribe to the…“It’s hard to convince players to come to Norwich” excuse. If you’ve ever read The Secret Footballer he does reference Norwich City and within the game players do see the club as a nice place to play football and a club where players are well looked after.
The two key issues in the transfer market from an outside perspective is that we don’t give the top targets the respect that shows we are serious about signing them and the wages simply aren’t what other clubs are willing to pay.
When you take into account the signings of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Lewis Grabban, Steven Naismith, Matt Jarvis and Brady there is an obvious effort from the club to improve the squad but what we have found from this season is that living within your means as a football club will unfortunately not spell success at the top level.
I do believe however that the reluctance to pay the premium wages only paints a small fraction of the picture. There are a number of other underlying factors to take into account and a large majority of these are out of the club’s hands.
There will be agents’ motives, selling clubs who will only let players go when they have their targets, and many more elements to consider, but Norwich have failed to master the element they are in control of: identifying the right players.
Our squad is now littered with players that look, to me at least, like the fourth or fifth man on the list of target acquisitions. You only need to look at our strike force for this.
The signings of Dieumerci Mbokani and Patrick Bamford never set the world on fire because neither player offers anything different to what we already had. Okay, they’ll have the odd good game, all professionals do, but on the whole there’s nothing in either that gives us a new dimension. We needed to identify players with different skill-sets.
The headline reason for our failure to improve the squad in preparation for the season boils down to the fact we didn’t offer the right money for the players we wanted to sign. However, even if we did get those players in, would they have been able to give us the different options going forward that we so desperately need?
I believe the problem runs deeper. We need to take a leaf out of Leicester City’s book and invest more into the recruitment team within the club. I don’t expect us to be signing the next Mahrez but as a Premier League club (at least for now) we should be able to identify players across the globe.
The goal behind this approach is to find players with the qualities that the team need at a market price much lower than that of a player in England or Spain.
Perhaps then the board can find a happy balance of identifying promising players and being able to put in those low-ball offers to sign them up.
I don’t believe that Norwich will change their approach and start offering big money for players to come and play for us, so improving the recruitment team is going to be the best solution going forward and then to start identifying players who have qualities in areas we are lacking.
If we do manage to stay up, unlikely as it looks at this point, we aren’t a million miles away from having a good team, but whether we stay up or go down, in the summer transfer window there will be a lot of pressure on the board to perform and not leave us once again lacking in quality.