Premier League Team Preview: Norwich City

The Canaries earned promotion to the Premier League by finishing second in the nPower Championship in the 2010/11 season. How will they fare in the top flight after a six-year absence? Sid of Villarreal USA has a chromatic soft spot for his yellow brethren in England, so he'll take us through it.

History


After a six-year absence, Norwich City returns to the English Premier League in 2011-12. The Canaries from Norfolk in East Anglia have achieved successive promotions, but their toughest task yet waits: consolidation in the top flight.
This will be City's 22nd top-level campaign, and the club boasts two league cups in its trophy cabinet. But times have changed since the club's high-water mark in 1992-93, a 3rd-place league finish.

Some interesting tidbits: City has played for seventy-five years at Carrow Road, which seats 27,000 spectators. And the club's theme song, On the Ball, City, is the oldest still in use in world football. Finally, City's longstanding rival is Ipswich Town; the two sides have disputed the "Old Farm" East Anglian derby 138 times.

2011-12 Season

Now on to the cold, hard reality: the Premier League is unkind to new arrivals. But the trend is positive: two promoted sides have survived in each of the last three seasons. QPR appears to have the most talent on paper, but Norwich and Swansea should be on similar footing.

Current City manager Paul Lambert has worked miracles in just two years at the helm, winning League One and then finishing runners-up in the Championship. Third place in the Primer League would follow the trend, but avoiding the bottom three is a more realistic goal.

Transfers

In (7): Elliott Bennett (Brighton), Bradley Johnson (Leeds), Ritchie De Laet (Manchester United- loan), Steve Morison (Millwall), Kyle Naughton (Tottenham- loan), Anthony Pilkington (Huddersfield), James Vaughan (Everton).

Striker James Vaughan is the big arrival at Carrow Road. Vaughan is a young English talent who has featured in the national team set-ups at the U-17, U-19, and U-21 levels. He scored his debut Premier League goal for Everton at age 16(!) and has since been on loan with a number of Championship sides.

On-loan defenders Ritchie De Laet and Kyle Naughton should help to shore up the back four. City conceded 58 goals last season, only 8th-best in the Championship. That total must improve in 2011-12, as the Canaries will not again be top scorers in their division (83 goals in favor in 2010-11).

Out (4): Luke Daley (Plymouth), Matthew Gill (Bristol Rovers), Jed Steer (Yeovil- loan), Owain Tudur-Jones (Inverness).

On-loan Arsenal midfielder Henri Lansbury will not return in 2011-12, potentially a big loss to the Canaries' playmaking abilities. This summer's departures all played bit parts last season, so City's squad remains largely intact.

Fixtures

City will have played eleven friendlies before its EPL campaign kicks off away to Wigan Athletic on August 13th. A 0-3 away win against Championship side Coventry City is arguably the Canaries' best result, while they also drew 1-1 with La Liga's Real Zaragoza. City's final tune-up should give a better indication of what lies ahead: at home to mid-table Serie A side Parma.

The EPL's asymmetrical fixture schedule could adversely impact the Canaries if they don't pick up points early on. The season's final two months are as follows: Everton, at Tottenham, Manchester City, at Blackburn, Liverpool, at Arsenal, Aston Villa. Brutal for any side, let alone a newly-promoted outfit.

In contrast, January and March appear to be friendly months. City plays three away matches in each month, but their travels are to fellow mid-level aspirants and direct rivals, such as QPR and West Brom. Winning a couple of these contests will be critical to the Canaries' chances of survival.

Projection

If, say, Swansea, West Brom, and Wolves finish below the Canaries, then East Anglia will see Premier League football for another year. So why not, 17th place it is.

On the ball, City! Your yellow Spanish brethren in Vila-real will be pulling for you.
--sid, VillarrealUSA.com

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