- Norwich are bottom of the Premier League by six points
- They’ve won just four matches so far this season
- Canaries spent far less than fellow promoted sides
- Boss Farke’s job said to be safe regardless of outcome
It’s the week beginning 17th of February. There are just three points separating Brighton in 15th and Watford in 19th, but below them Norwich are six points below in 20th. With time running out, is there any chance of the Canaries avoiding relegation? The bookies don’t seem to think so, as they’re the clear favourites to go down with odds ranging from 1/14 to 1/20.
Of course, teams have pulled off the unexpected before. Look at Leicester, who managed to stay up in 2015 before that famous Premier League winning campaign a year later. However, that Leicester team contained the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel. Norwich have no such quality, perhaps aside from Teemu Pukki.
Seldom comprehensively beaten, Norwich can maybe count themselves unlucky to be where they are in the league. A 4-0 defeat to Man United aside, six of their last seven defeats have been by just the odd goal, even against teams like Tottenham and runaway leaders Liverpool. There was that famous 3-2 win at home to Man City, and it will be sure to live long in the memory of all Canaries, but it was a rare anomalous highlight in a season of disappointment.
Unremarkable transfer windows
Ultimately, it’s become clear that they just lack Premier League quality throughout the team. Norwich didn’t exactly set the world alight in the last two transfer windows, either, with unremarkable transfers signifying that head coach Daniel Farke is preparing for life in the Championship but key players also remaining in a bid to defy the odds and stay up. Despite fellow promoted teams Aston Villa and to a lesser extent Sheffield United splashing the cash, Norwich stayed prudent even in the summer, and it looks to be biting them now. Even if we take a look at their major signings since gaining promotion, there’s a lack of real Premier League experience there:
Ralf Fährmann (Schalke, loan)
Sam Byram (West Ham, £747,000)
Josip Drmić (Borussia Mönchengladbach, free)
Patrick Roberts (Man City, loan)
Ibrahim Amadou (Sevilla, loan)
Sam McCallum (Coventry, £3.74m)
Lukas Rupp (Hoffenheim, £450,000)
Ondrej Duda (Hertha BSC, loan)
Even including loan fees and transfers for youngsters, their total spend doesn’t exceed even £10m, roughly the figure paid by Sheffield Wednesday to acquire Lys Mousset from Bournemouth, and by Aston Villa for Club Brugge’s Marvelous Nakamba. Clearly, Norwich were always going to struggle to compete from the outset. Then again, their higher-profile signings in the past haven’t always been the most successful – Ricky van Wolfswinkel, anyone?
Where do Norwich stand in the rankings of Summer 2019 transfer spend by Premier League clubs? While Villa are second to Man United having spent £144.5m, Norwich’s outlay was just £1.1m, the lowest in the division by some margin, Liverpool the only other club to have spent under £10m, and of course they had no real need to invest in new bodies.
Lack of Premier League quality
Low on funds and low on quality, it’s unlikely to get easier for Norwich. Their remaining two games this month are away at Wolves and at home to Leicester, both teams in the mix for European qualification this season. Teemu Pukki is clearly the standout player this season, with 11 goals and three assists in a poor team. Youngster Todd Cantwell has six goals and two assists to his name this season but looks likely to leave in the summer, while Emiliano Buendía has seven assists, leading the way with Pukki in second place.
It looks as though Norwich will be considering the long-term future of the club, with Burnley a potential model. After the Clarets went down in 2014/15 after just one season in the top flight they kept faith in their manager and most of their players, and duly went back up to the Premier League as champions a year later. Now on their fourth consecutive Premier League campaign, they’re proving themselves to be a solid lower-mid-table team, even making it to Europe at one point.
Clearly, if (or when) Norwich go down it won’t be the end of the world. There will be pressure to get back to the Premier League sooner rather than later, but there’s no reason why the Canaries can’t do that. Farke has been at the club since 2017 and his role in the manager’s seat is considered to be safe regardless of Norwich’s fortunes come May.
Is there a chance of Norwich staying up? Honestly, more than likely not. Despite the five teams above them in the dogfight constantly dropping points, it’s hard to see where Norwich can make up the seven points needed to draw level with 17th-placed Villa in the final 12 games of the season. It seems like a case of the relegation places being filled by Norwich and a combination of those five, with Villa, Watford, West Ham, Bournemouth and Brighton all scrambling to fight another season at the top table.