There are a few reasons for Norwich City`s relegation struggles this season. The main allegation from the fans is a criticism of the board and it`s poor recruitment in the summer transfer window.
Couple that with some inexplicable individual errors and it`s plain to see why we are where we are.
The battle to stay in the league will go right down to the wire and at least one of the North East teams will tumble through the relegation trapdoor into the Championship. Whether or not they are joined by Norwich City is the question on all our lips.
We are going to have a surprise period of inactivity, due to FA Cup Semi Final weekend, in the next eight days as we anxiously watch Sunderland and Newcastle go about their business, playing while we can`t do anything but sit on our hands.
Getting back to my first assessment about the poor recruitment, it`s been bandied about for months by fans and especially here on Vital Norwich. The summer desperately needed to yield the acquisition of at least two centre backs of Timm Klose quality. The centre of defence along with the forward areas were “must seriously strengthen” areas of the squad.
Imagine if Klose had been partnered with another player of similar stature in August. I have no doubt that things, including our goal difference would`ve been a lot better. At the other end of the field, not enough effort was made to get in the quality needed. Wolves were belatedly offered £10m in late August for Benik Afobe but he was seriously targeted too late in the day.
In January, he went to Bournemouth for £10m and although he has been injured of late, he`s shown enough and scored enough, to show he`s Premier League quality. Another “one that got away” story.
Why is that though?
I don`t think Norwich isn`t an attractive enough place for footballers to want to come because “if you pay them, they will come.” There must be more to it than that. I have heard several, well sourced rumours about why we struggle to attract top players – rumours that might get me sued if I were to put them in print, but the basic bottom line has to be the package that we are offering.
Alex Neil has a patchy record on player signings, I think it`s fair to say but the modern model of footballer recruitment doesn`t actually seem to involve the manager too much until the final bit of the deal. Having said that, Neil has to give the final nod to any deal, surely.
It appears the manager now gives the recruitment team a list of the positions he wants to improve and then they identify players to fill them. The days of managers ringing up players like Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson used to, are gone.
I expect that we are then looking for a deal or an angle to smooth it all along as well. Is a player`s contract running down (Robbie Brady), is he free? (Youssouf Mulumbu), perhaps he`s not playing regularly (Timm Klose & Steven Naismith). Whatever it might be, our recruitment team are tasked with finding them and then, I presume, they put the player`s name in front of the manager.
I`ve taken a look at this season`s first team signings and rated them as either a hit or a miss.
Robbie Brady – Hit
Andre Wisdom – Miss
Timm Klose – A Big Hit
Ivo Pinto – Miss
Youssouf Mulumbu – Miss
Steven Naismith – Miss
Dieumerci Mbokani – Hit
Patrick Bamford – Miss
Now, that`s obviously just my opinion and I don`t expect everyone to agree with me but it doesn`t make for pretty reading does it? It could of course be argued that some of these lads haven`t been given a real chance like Mulumbu, Pinto or Bamford but as I`ve said before, I don`t see them in training every day – the manager does and he makes the decisions.
The bottom line though is that there are far too many misses and the squad hasn`t been strengthened enough, with only four of the above actually getting regular game time. The conclusion you have to reach is that therefore we have a Championship capable squad that hasn`t sufficiently been able to cut it at the highest level, even with a few supposedly higher quality additions. That disappoints me in a Premier League season unlike any in the last decade or more. It`s been a turbulent season for some of the top teams and the bottom four in the league as it stands, have been by far the poorest teams – and that’s by some distance.
There have also been plenty of inexplicable individual mistakes, like Russell Martin`s back pass against Liverpool and Gary O`Neil`s horror tackle on Afellay at Stoke – moments that almost certainly cost us the points on those occasions.
This season should`ve been a chance to stay in the league and reap the £100m reward, it was certainly a great opportunity to do so but we haven`t taken it. We`re not down yet of course and there is still plenty to fight for but the spirit and performances will have to be more like that seen against Newcastle than that which we saw against Sunderland.
The loss of our best new signing, Timm Klose is a bitter pill to have to swallow in the remaining four games and the thought of Seb Bassong martialling the back four doesn`t fill me with confidence, does it you?
The bitterest pill of all though is that we have been let down by a board who just don`t seem to understand what is required at this level. Every football fan has an opinion on who their club should be signing and everyone thinks they know best, whoever you talk to. Many of the opinions expressed by people I know on the subject are ridiculous, clueless and far fetched, in my humble opinion.
Our recruitment team though, seem as clueless as anyone.