It is no secret that Norwich attempted to bolster their squad during the summer transfer window. They moved for a variety of foreign players as well as attempting to sign Benik Afobe, Dwight Gayle and Jon Walters – but to no avail. Instead all they mustered was a last minute deadline day signing in the form of Dieumerci Mbokani on loan from Dynamo Kyiv.
Whilst not quite a cataclysmic disaster, Norwich’s season has been a slow burner to say the least. They currently sit two places and three points above the relegation zone. Their problem is not that they cannot score. They have managed to net more goals than Crystal Palace so far this season, although Mbokani has only managed two goals so far. Norwich’s second highest goal scorer is their captain and defender Russell Martin, not the greatest indication of a team’s attacking prowess.
They have, however, conceded far too many times and have failed to gain points in important matches. Norwich have let in as many goals as Aston Villa, who are currently bottom of the table. This included an ignominious 6-2 defeat against struggling Newcastle. So far Norwich have only managed one clean sheet, in their recent 1-0 victory over Swansea.
In Norwich’s defence they have faced some big hitters in the opening period of the season, including Liverpool, Manchester City and West Ham, and managed a reasonably respectable two points from those three games. However, they ended up as one of the few teams unable to capitalise on Chelsea’s weakness this season, and failed to gain any points against them last weekend.
Considering Norwich have lost five of their last six league games, Alex Neil is certainly aware that things have to change. In his annual general meeting on the 25th of November he admitted he will have switch to a more defensive minded set up, and that in the “first ten games (of the season) we were generally offensive and tried to play attacking football, as we did last season, but we were coming away in losing positions”. If Norwich want to remain in the Premier League Neil will have to compromise on offensive play. As he said, “the growing of the club is bigger than my philosophy. I’ve got to find a way of keeping us in this league” – even if this is contrary to aesthetically pleasing football.
Norwich have a tough December coming up, having the imposing task of facing Arsenal, Manchester United, and Tottenham. But if they can come through this difficult Christmas period and make some important purchases in January – an effective striker most urgently – Norwich can come into the New Year newly invigorated.
Their direct rivals are desperately struggling. Villa have won only a single game all season, and Bournemouth, Sunderland and Newcastle have only managed two victories each. As long as Neil and Norwich are willing to sit back and retain points at all costs they should be able to keep their head’s afloat until they can add some attacking prowess. Fingers crossed that come January time Alex Neil and his Canaries are flying a little higher.