Norwich are set up well to win the Championship but remain toothless in the top flight after suffering another instant Premier League relegation… and boss Dean Smith faces a tough summer ahead of bid to bounce back
- Norwich City have failed to stay up in their last three Premier League seasons
- The Canaries were relegated following defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday
- Club have invested in facilities but not on the first-team in recent campaigns
It started with vows that lessons had been learned, promises that this time would be different.
But here we are again, Norwich dumped out of the Premier League with a whimper. Six relegations in the Premier League era, an instant return to the second tier the last three times they have been promoted.
So how do you assess the life of a perennial yo-yo club? It might seem as though Norwich and Fulham just keep each other’s seat warm for a year and swap divisions, but the Canaries’ model is worlds away.
Norwich City were relegated from the Premier League after defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday
Norwich were never going to spend huge money last summer. The club know their place in the food chain and have a long-term goal to consistently be in the ‘top 25’ places of English football. Sporting director Stuart Webber is a realist and that has been demonstrated by the big-money sales in recent years of Emi Buendia, Ben Godfrey, James Maddison and Jamal Lewis.
But how do Norwich break into the top 15 places in the country, for example, as Brighton, Crystal Palace and Southampton have done, and Brentford might follow this season?
Webber calls his long-term vision the ‘infinite game’ model. He prioritises long-term investments over short-term gain. They are spending £6million on training ground developments, including a state-of-the-art swimming pool, which will see their facilities rank among the best in the country. Other clubs would have spent that money on new signings.
Boss Dean Smith and assistant Craig Shakespeare look on from the dugout at Villa Park
Boss Dean Smith was recruited primarily to keep Norwich up but, failing that, Webber and the board pinpointed him as the man to bring them back next season.
Herein lies the Norwich City paradox. This forward-thinking method is admirable but also the problem. Equipped to win the Championship, but toothless and helpless in the top flight. It is why Webber has been targeted by fans this season and, as Sportsmail understands, is still unsure whether he will extend his deal when it expires next month.
Smith and assistant Craig Shakespeare were shocked at the lack of belief and thought the team felt like an academy when they took over, with many neat players but not enough physicality or leadership voices. Buendia, who is now at Villa and dazzled in a late cameo off the bench on Saturday, was not replaced, nor was midfielder Oliver Skipp, who returned to Tottenham after a loan last season.
Covid chaos thwarted their winter form, while injuries have plagued their campaign. Relegation was inevitable before Smith was hired — the club had two points after 11 matches. He will give a chance to youngsters Adam Idah, Andrew Omobamidele and Jonathan Rowe in the second tier, but will target experience and physicality in the transfer market.
Four loanees will leave and none is likely to return, bar perhaps Manchester United’s Brandon Williams who has been a fan favourite at Carrow Road. So it will be another turbulent summer at Norwich, with the players also set for drastic wage cuts of 40 to 60 per cent.
But Smith has the full backing of the board and, with his stellar c.v. of promotions, don’t bet against them bouncing back next season. See you again in a year, Premier League?