The Championship is an unpredictable league, but that is no excuse for the underachievement of Norwich City. For a team relegated from the Premier League the expectation is of an instant return, however Alex Neil’s side currently slumber outside the play-off places and a managerial change is the only way for the Canaries to return to their standing as promotion candidates.
A poor summer transfer window left Norwich lacking in quality and depth in key areas. This has not changed. The Canaries have been relying on an ageing Cameron Jerome and a sub-standard Nelson Oliveira to score the goals, which simply has not worked. Against Brentford, Aston Villa and Huddersfield, Norwich have looked toothless in attack.
In the promotion-winning 2015 Championship campaign, City had depth up-front. Jerome, Lewis Grabban and Gary Hooper provided 45 goals between them, while midfield powerhouse Bradley Johnson chipped in with a further 15. Norwich finished 3rd that season, which proves that a well prepared City side, the core of which remains at Carrow Road, are more than capable of achieving promotion. That season, Neil Adams was shown the door with the Canaries just seven points adrift of automatic promotion. It makes City’s persistence with Alex Neil even more surprising. He has bought time thanks to his age and the memory of his first promotion.
With the current squad, Neil has been shown to be tactically inept. His persistence in starting Sebastien Bassong over Timm Klose has proved costly, due to the Cameroon defender’s hesitance under pressure and susceptibility to long balls. Add to this the incomprehensible decision to remove creative midfielder Graham Dorrans while chasing the game against Huddersfield, and the replacement of Oliveira against Reading, and it is clear that Neil lacks flexibility. The neglect shown to Alex Pritchard and Neil’s refusal to play two strikers has compounded the problem..
Of almost 6,200 votes in a poll following the Canaries’ loss to Reading, over 90% of fans said that Neil’s time was up. It has been rumoured that Chairman Ed Balls had secretly offered Neil a new bumper contract in the summer, so Norwich would have to shell out roughly £2million if they wanted to sack him.
Although this may play in Neil’s favour, the Canaries are now over ten points adrift of automatic promotion. The potential pay-out is minimal in this day and age, and it is clear that the vast majority of Norwich fans would like a new manager.
There is no doubt that a change is needed if Norwich want to challenge for promotion. Neil will certainly have had to invest wisely if he is to last until the end of the season.