Premier League Transfers: How Norwich City Are Changing Their Skin
The 2013 summer transfer window has been absolutely fantastic for Norwich City so far.
Rather than arrive and immediately rip the schedule to shreds, manager Chris Hughton spent 12 months working with what Paul Lambert left him and (wisely) chose to consolidate in the English Premier League for one more season before putting his own stamp on the club.
You won't find the words "drastic upheaval" and "mass change" in the how-to handbook on avoiding second-season syndrome, and while at times the Canaries dragged their feet through the mud in the last campaign, it was a necessary sacrifice to stabilise the club.
The revolution started as soon as the Norfolk club looked safe on paper, securing a deal for Ricky van Wolfswinkel after cash-strapped Sporting Lisbon were forced to sell as early as March.
He's a completely different mould of striker to what Carrow Road is used to seeing, and it's fair to say at the time it wasn't a great deal.
Why? Because he cost approximately £8.5 million—some investment, considering the ilk of the club—and represents a rather one-dimensional threat on the pitch.
That can be fixed, of course, by surrounding him with the players to unlock his goalscoring abilities, and over the course of the last month, Hughton has done exactly that.
Last season, the Canaries' game was built on spraying the ball wide, crossing it and heading it in. Grant Holt, for all his heroism, is a limited player at the top level, and his lack of ability on the technical side stopped the team building up slowly through the middle.
Wes Hoolahan's inconsistencies also made it hard for Hughton to play a stable No. 10, and all this resulted in a serious lack of goals.
Van Wolfswinkel is a goal-machine in the right system, and while he didn't slot in on paper at the time, Hughton's summer acquisitions point to a different Norwich City side turning out in front of us next season.
Leroy Fer is a very interesting recruit at just £5 million—£3 million less than the price Everton agreed with previous club FC Twente in January—and has the potential to drastically alter Norwich's fortunes through the middle.
Javier Garrido has been retained on a permanent basis, while Martin Olsson has been added to shore up left-back. Both are comfortable on the ball, and while Garrido swung in cross after cross toward Holt's head last season, he's very capable of keeping it on the floor, too.
The Daily Mail's Graeme Yorke confirmed the club had agreed a fee for Toby Alderweireld with Ajax, and although the deal failed to come to fruition, it showed Hughton was chasing a real ball-playing centre-back.
Nathan Redmond can become a dynamic wide threat, and while a new centre-back would be nice, a silky No. 10 to play between the lines—with consistency, it should be noted—is the only remaining "necessary" addition.
Norwich could turn out next season with Robert Snodgrass, Anthony Pilkington, Fer and a new attacking playmaker flanking Dutch international van Wolfswinkel.
They will finally be able to create through the middle and feed the ball to RVW in the box rather than rely on the touchlines to do their damage. It makes them much more of a varied threat and subsequently much harder to game-plan for.
Hughton has clearly decided to do away with the skeletons in the Canaries' closet, move on the legacies and change their modus operandi. They survived by the skin of their teeth last season and struggled to win games, but the impending new look and playing style could make the club dark horses for a top-half finish.
Fantastic work so far, and Norwich fans are rightly optimistic for the campaign ahead.
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