Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for Norwich City's 2012-13 Season

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IIAugust 11, 2012

Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for Norwich City's 2012-13 Season

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    Norwich City's players will be put to the test this season as they must prove that they can succeed in the English Premier League without departed manager Paul Lambert.

    This past season, the Canaries made their first appearance in the Premiership since 2004-05 and they were a surprisingly strong side.

    Lambert took over the team after it had been relegated from the Championship, then earned successive promotions and led Norwich to a 12th-place finish in the top flight.

    The team's ability to achieve similar results under new boss Chris Hughton is the subject of my next EPL review piece.

    Here is what you need to know about the Canaries' 2012-13 campaign.

Transfers In, Transfers out

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    Transfers In Transfers Out
    Robert Snodgrass Zak Whitbread
    Steven Whittaker Aaron Wilbraham
    Jacob Butterfield Adam Drury
     Michael Turner Daniel Ayala
      Andrew Crofts
      Ritchie De Laet

    Key Additions

    Robert Snodgrass

    The 24-year-old Scottish winger is coming off a fantastic season with Leeds United in which he scored 13 goals and recorded 15 assists in Championship matches. His former club was set to make him the captain, but he chose to move on to Norwich City and a chance to play in the Premier League.

    Snodgrass will give the Canaries pace and skill on the wing, but a successful transition to England's top flight is not entirely certain. He has never played at this level before, and inexperience will be a factor in his upcoming season. 

    Michael Turner

    Two of Norwich's often used defenders left Carrow Road this summer, and it was vital for the team to add quality players in the back. Adding Turner—who has four seasons of Premiership experience—was a shrewd move by the club.

    The 28-year-old started 23 games at center back for Sunderland this past year and will bring veteran savvy to the back line. If he can stay healthy, this will be an excellent signing. 

    Key Departures

    Zak Whitbread

    The 28-year-old American brought a physical presence to the heart of the Norwich defense during his 18 league appearances, but the team will not miss him much with Turner in the lineup. 

    A string of injuries kept him from performing at his best. It was an unfortunate stroke of luck for Whitbread, but the Canaries made the necessary adjustment by letting him leave.

    Adam Drury

    Drury provided the team with depth at left back and started just 12 league matches. Still, a player who spends 11 years with the same club deserves some recognition.

    The 33-year-old has been through all the highs and lows with the Canaries and their supporters. From a football standpoint however, it was time to for the two sides to move on from each other. 

Biggest Matches and Full Schedule

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    The full Norwich City schedule can be found via the team's website. Here are the must-see matches.

    At Newcastle, Saturday, September 22

    The fifth game of the Canaries' Premier League campaign will be the beginning of a brutal stretch of matches. It is important to gain confidence and momentum against Newcastle, otherwise it could be over a month until the team adds to its point total.

    The next three league matches will be against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. Losing four consecutive games early in the year would be devastating. 

    Newcastle and Norwich split their contests last season. In the first meeting, Grant Holt scored twice in a 4-2 victory. This is exactly the type of performance the team must put on at Sports Direct Arena. 

    At Swansea City, Saturday, October 8

    Both Norwich and Swansea had remarkable seasons for being new-boys in the Premiership. Each had a charismatic manager who caught the eye of bigger clubs, and now Paul Lambert is with Aston Villa, while Brendan Rogers is leading Liverpool.

    The teams will face similar story lines as each tries to succeed under new direction. When they meet in this match, it will be clear how far each side has fared with its new boss.

    Each team earned 47 points in their 2011-12 campaign, and if this is a lopsided result, it will be clear that one side has failed to adjust properly to the changes.

    Vs. Aston Villa, Saturday, May 4

    Paul Lambert's departure is a worrisome sign for the Canaries and the team has the potential to struggle this season.

    At this point, Norwich may be facing relegation. This scenario would certainly create ill feelings toward Lambert for his decision to leave the club. But Norwich will have its shot at redemption as the team's former boss heads back to Carrow Road.

    It will surely be an emotional affair, but the points up for grab in the match may overshadow Lambert's return. Three points might be vital for Norwich's survival. 

Key Players

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    Grant Holt

    Holt and Lambert have led Norwich City's resurgence in recent years—and the 31-year-old striker has 60 goals in 120 appearances for the club.

    He is the captain, as well as the centerpiece of the team's attack, and scored 15 goals in his first Premier League season.

    If he has another successful season at Carrow Road, it will go a long way towards helping the Canaries have another positive year.

    Holt went through some transfer drama this summer and requested to leave the club. However, the two sides worked out their differences and Holt signed a new deal.

    Wes Hoolahan

    Hoolahan is an intelligent and versatile midfielder who can be effective in multiple roles. 

    The 30-year-old played most often as a true center midfielder, where he was able to put to get his teammates into threatening positions. He was also occasionally tasked with playing further up the field, where he proved capable of scoring goals himself.

    Hoolahan finished the season with four goals and seven assists in 33 Premiership appearances. Similar production will be necessary this year, as he must continue to be the engine that drives the Norwich attack. 

    Anthony Pilkington

    Holt and Hoolahan put pressure on the opposing team's center backs, but it is up to Pilkington to do damage from the wing.

    The 24-year-old is most comfortable on the wing, but he can play on either side. He notched eight goals and an assist as a winger this season.

    If Robert Snodgrass makes the leap from the Championship successfully, then the Canaries will have a lethal attack capable of coming at a back line from all angles.

Strengths

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    Attacking Balance

    When Norwich City go forward, they do so as a unit and any one of the advancing players is capable of producing a goal.

    The team scored 52 goals last season, which ranked seventh in Premier League. The six teams with more potent offenses were the sides that finished one through six on the table.

    Grant Holt led the team with 15 goals, while fellow striker Steve Morison finished second with nine and winger Anthony Pilkington struck eight times.

    In the assist category, center midfielder Wes Hoolahan led with seven, his partner Bradley chipped in five and winger Elliott Bennet recorded four.

    This is exactly the type of balance and production that a coach looks for in the six players he trusts with producing goals.

    Being the Underdogs

    Few expected Norwich to even survive the Premiership last season, much less pull off several impressive results.

    Beating Tottenham in London and tying Arsenal 3-3 late in the season were unthinkable outcomes last August, but the Canaries stuck it to the rest of the league and relished being overlooked.

    Lambert leaving the club and all the news surrounding Holt's possible departure just may keep the team under everyone's radar. If new manager Chris Hughton can pitch this mentality to his players, he may be able to coax more inspired performances from his squad.

Weaknesses

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    Defensive Depth

    Norwich City conceded 66 goals last season. This tied Queens Park Rangers for the fourth-highest total, with only the three relegated sides allowing more scoring strikes.

    In the wake of the inconsistent defensive performance last season, Zak Whitbread, Daniel Ayala and Richtie De Laet—all center backs—are no longer with the team. Adam Drury, a reserve left back, can be added to list of departed defenders.

    The Canaries did bring in Michael Turner and Steven Whittaker, but this may not be enough to turn in an improved defensive performance—especially during matches when Turner is resting.

    The team's first options along the back line are not incredibly impressive, and the squad is thin after that. This certainly will be a worrisome area for the team this season.

    Chris Hughton

    Hughton is by no means a poor manager, but he is not Paul Lambert. 

    Lambert's coaching was the driving force behind Norwich's success in the past three seasons and it will be a rocky road forward without him.

    Hughton has Premier League experience, but it is was brief. He helped Newcastle gain promotion back to the top flight, earning a permanent appointment as the team's boss, but was not given a chance to succeed in the EPL and was fired at the first sign of trouble.

    He is passionate and devoted, but Lambert was able to get this side to play above and beyond its abilities. Hughton does not have the same connection with players or the same talents as the departed coach, and he will not be able to achieve the same results. 

Prediction for 2012-13

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    Wins: 8

    Draws: 9

    Losses: 21

    Points: 33

    Place: 19th

    The summer has not been kind to Norwich and the coming months will not provide a change in fortunes.

    Managers like Paul Lambert make a difference, especially when they've proven to their players what the team can achieve when they execute correctly. 

    Chris Hughton is an adequate coach, but it will take time for him and the Canaraies' players to adjust to each other. By the time Hughton and the team are on the same track, it will be too late. 

    Norwich's three-year run is at its end—and the team will be playing in the Championship next season. 

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