I know there is a section of the support that believe that the Canaries have gone backwards this season, but this is certainly not my view. Of course, there are various statistics that can be bandied around that seem to support the theory that the club have gone backwards.
For instance, an inferior goal difference, an inferior league position, an inferior points tally, scored more goals last season, had a top scorer with 15, more away wins, and I am sure there are many more of those stats. But they are only relevant if we think that the two seasons are the same.
We also need to take into account that there has been a managerial change, and Paul Lambert is certainly not the same as Chris Hughton. I think we are all aware of the difficulty involved in staying in the EPL in the second season; the fact that the Canaries have almost accomplished that is an impressive achievement.
For me, that was the only objective for the season, and Chris Hughton should only be under pressure if he failed to achieve this. The one big improvement that Hughton has made is on the defensive side of the game. For instance, the nine clean sheets that Norwich have kept this season have been a huge positive. A number that could well have been even bigger if John Ruddy had not faced that lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner have formed a superb defensive partnership at the heart of the team. The club has still suffered a few heavy defeats, but they look set to end the season with an improved defensive record on last season. People talk about the fact that the team were better last season away from home, but the home record looks set to be improved on this season.
Under Lambert, Norwich was defeated six times in their own backyard and won seven home games in total. This season, Hughton’s team have already recorded the same number on wins but have two more home games to go. They are also guaranteed to ensure they will lose fewer home games than last season.
The signings that have been acquired were of a very high quality with special mentions for Bassong, Alex Tettey and Robert Snodgrass. Snodgrass has also been heavily involved in another key improvement area, and that is set-piece goals. These have provided 52 percent of the team’s goals, and only Manchester United have recorded more. Of course, Snodgrass is often the one to put in the ball for these goals as well as being a scorer from direct free kicks.
Financially, the club also seems to have made progress, moving towards being clear of external debt. This situation will open up interesting future options for the Canaries as far as expanding the stadium and letting loose in the transfer market.
I think overall it’s been a season of transition but with some important improvements that will serve to really lay the foundations for next season. The signing of Ricky van Wolfswinkel shows that the club has moved up in terms of the money they can spend and the calibre of player they can attract.
Although, this season has been largely a defensive job from Hughton, I’m hopeful that situation will change during the next campaign. It’s clear that the Norwich manager is now looking to improve his options in the attacking part of the pitch. And if he can get the right players in, things could get very exciting for Norwich City fans during the 2013-14 season.
Stats from Who Scored.