Norwich’s relegation has been sealed after Sunderland completed their Great Escape from the drop zone. Summed up by record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel, whose solo goal on the opening day at Everton has been a poor return for their £8.5m investment, a season which promised much after an eleventh place finish last year has failed to deliver.
With their atrocious run-in, featuring Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City and only a slender gap over the teams behind, the Canaries’ fate was something of a formality, and regretfully, an outcome to their season that was all too deserved. Neil Adams’ side were reliant on Sunderland not picking up any points in their home games against West Brom and Swansea City to have any chance of survival, but the Black Cats’ 2-0 win against the Albion on Tuesday condemned Norwich to a return to the Championship after three years in the Premier League.
City knew that nothing less than a win would be enough against a strong Chelsea side, but a gallant display in the 0-0 draw at the Bridge was not enough. That, sadly, has been the story of their season. The Yellows have been undeniably superb at rising to some of the big occasions, beating Tottenham 1-0 and securing goalless draws with Man City and Chelsea. But too often, there has not been enough cohesion in the squad, and more painfully for the Carrow Road faithful, there has not been enough fight.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho spoke of his bewilderment after the Stamford Bridge game at Norwich’s defensive tactics considering their lowly position. It may not have been a parked bus, but it came close.
Both former manager Chris Hughton and his replacement Adams – a former youth team coach with no top flight experience whatsoever – have seemed afraid to take risks, and their negative tactics, combined with week in, week out displays of lethargy and poor defending, has proved their downfall.
Their gusty 3-2 defeat to Liverpool, while not yielding any points, was a demonstration of the football Norwich are capable of playing when they are filled with belief, but all too often this was found lacking, despite the obvious talents of Leroy Fer, the sparkling wing play of Nathan Redmond and the dynamism of Jonny Howson in midfield.
The blame must not only be apportioned to the players, as it seems to be a mentality that permeates around the club. Like their manager, the board were too hesitant to make the big decisions, with Hughton’s firing in April coming far too late to have any impact. City may have some harsh lessons to learn from Sunderland in that respect, the North East club’s miracle escape coming after ditching the divisive Paolo di Canio and appointing Gus Poyet in October.
Those misgivings mean the Yellows have joined a sorry Fulham – who changed their manager twice – and Cardiff, whose relegation was confirmed with two games to go.