Of the three promoted teams, Norwich have undoubtedly been the most impressive so far this season: currently sitting in ninth position, and having held their own against some of the strongest teams in the division, including a killer four-goal performance against a wounded Newcastle United who had up until that point been the most frugal team in the league.
While Swansea struggle to turn their impressive attacking and passing play into goals and victories in some games, Norwich seem to have adapted to the demands of the Premiership far better: blending the style that saw them promoted with the maturity required to cement their position in the top division. A lot of praise must go to Paul Lambert, who has worked wonders since taking over at Carrow Road, and instilled a confidence in his team that has translated on the pitch in admirable style.
January can be an itchy time for newly promoted managers though, and especially those whose team are perhaps exceeding expectations at the half-way point of the season: do they stick or do they twist and hope that form and luck continues, and injuries stay clear? In many ways, it is a more difficult prospect facing Lambert than facing Roberto Mancini who will have far less potential waves in his team’s immediate future and probably far less urge to pre-empt any problems.
What They Need
Scoring is certainly not a problem: Norwich are the highest scoring team in the league outside of the top five, and in Grant Holt and Steve Morison the Canaries have a formidable strike-force with presence, pace and power and the invaluable eye for goal. Simeon Jackson, James Vaughan and Aaron Wilbraham offer some support from the bench, but going forward Norwich need another striker to offer more pressure on the top two, and reliable cover when either picks up a knock or a suspension.
Looking down the leagues is the best option, unless Lambert can take advantage of his links in Scotland to unearth a Caledonian treasure or two, but even those two traditionally cheaper markets offer limited fruit in Norwich’s price bracket these days with players like Jordan Rhodes at Huddersfield tagged at around £5m. One name that keeps getting linked with a move to City is Bristol City’s Nicky Maynard, who Lambert has had watched already this season, but again, interest breeds interest and Bristol have already rejected a £4m bid from Leicester last summer, so he wouldn’t come cheap. Goals never do. BUT with Maynard’s contract out in the summer, he might well be available for as little of half of that now.
We know Norwich were after a defensive midfielder, after they failed to convince Emmanuel Frimpong to join on loan, and the team certainly needs some more defensive steel if they are going to stay in a favourable position. That high goals for figure is less impressive with the equally high goals against figure sitting next to it, after all, and a positive goal difference can make all the difference at the sharp end of the season.
Not a lot, unless Norwich lose a talent to a high bidder, but if Paul Lambert is smart, and all signs point towards the fact, he will keep the group of players he already has together.
If pressed, there are a couple of names who might be moved on: Aaran Wilbraham shouldn’t be at Norwich next season if the club stay up, as the 32 year old is now basically a body for cover in the squad, and fringe players like George Francomb and Simon Lappin might well have to move on to find first team football more regularly.
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