We are delighted to start off the season with a Q&A with Paddy Davitt, who is a noted Norwich City blogger. His work is published in The Pink 'un, the premier newspaper and website focused on Norfolk football, the Eastern Daily Press and the Norwich Evening News among others, and he also maintains the Canaries blog on the ESPN FC site.
RBM - What an offseason for Norwich! The fans have to be feeling good with all the new signings right?
PD - Definitely. It feels like changing times at Carrow Road. Chris Hughton has brought in seven signings to date over the summer but it is the quality and the size of the fees that underline City seem serious about pushing on after two mid-table Premier League finishes. Norwich smashed their previous club-record transfer fee to recruit Dutch international striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel for an initial £8.6m, along with another forward in Celtic’s Gary Hooper, but the likes of England Under-21 wide player Nathan Redmond and another young talent in Dutch Under-21 midfielder Leroy Fer also carry plenty of potential for the future.
RBM - With a full season under his belt, Chris Hughton looks to have settled in very well. Your thoughts on the manager?
PD - Looks more and more like the right appointment at the right time for the club. His experience and calm demeanour both in and outside the football club were crucial factors following the turbulent departure of Paul Lambert last summer. Hughton found a style of play that suited the men under his command. It might not have won City too many admirers outside of Norfolk with the emphasis on defensive solidity but Norwich finished one place higher than Lambert managed in his previous season.
RBM - Any strategic changes in the side with regards to formation etc. to account for the new boys coming in?
PD - Not likely. Hughton spoke last season about the prevalence in the Premier League of the lone striker supported by the ‘false’ 10 or the attacking advanced midfielder, with two wide players capable of shouldering the defensive responsibilities of also helping their full-backs. Expect the Canaries to keep faith with that same system but just upgrade the quality of player within the framework. Van Wolfswinkel looks like the new spearhead with men like Hooper and Fer possibly competing with Wes Hoolahan and Jonny Howson on occasions for the key support role.
RBM - Who did Norwich City play for their pre-season friendlies? How did they do in those matches?
PD - Like Everton, Norwich headed to the West Coast of America. They played three games in total, losing twice 1-0 to MLS opponents in San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers after beating a Mexican side in their opening tour match. Norwich have since drawn games with Brighton, Braga in northern Portugal and Real Sociedad back at Carrow Road before finishing with a comfortable 2-0 win over Panathinaikos. Norwich’s Scottish international Russell Martin has said this week it was probably the toughest pre-season in terms of quality opponents that he has faced since joining the club permanently in 2010.
RBM - The Canaries finished in 11th place last season. What are your realistic expectations for this year? How about in the Cups?
PD - I think most supporters and probably the management and players would sign now for a repeat of that finish. With one crucial difference. Norwich were cruising upto Christmas on the back of a club-record unbeaten run – which included a late draw at Goodison Park – but they tailed off dramatically in the New Year and needed to beat West Brom in their final home match to guarantee safety. If the Canaries could navigate a smoother passage with no relegation fears and have a sustained run in either cup competition that would be viewed as a successful season.
RBM - Norwich got the better of Everton last year at Carrow Road, with a late, late goal. What are you expecting for Saturday?
PD - Yes, that league victory over Everton and the manner it came with Grant Holt’s 93rd minute winner proved crucial after a poor run of results. It just seemed to give the players and fans renewed belief they could survive in the Premier League. In truth, Everton were the better side on the day and were punished for not taking their chances. Opening day games are notoriously hard to predict and you can guarantee there will be a freak result or two somewhere in the Premier League. City were very strong at Carrow Road for the majority of last season and also beat the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal at home. They will target a win with Everton under new management but a draw might not be the worst outcome for either club. 1-1.
Thank you Paddy for speaking with us. If we never see Grant Holt again I'm sure it won't be too soon. Looks like we should be all set for an entertaining game as Norwich will attempt to get off to a fast start while the Blues will want to show that they are a rung higher than the hosts. If you have additional questions for Paddy, leave a comment, and he'll be glad to give us a follow-up.
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