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Premier League season previews: Norwich City

Norwich City had a fairly comfortable year last season, and they've made some brilliant buys in the transfer window this season,

Alex Livesey

Norwich City initially looked very unlikely to stay in the Premier League last year, but Chris Hughton's simple approach, taking the team back to the basics of defending and solidity and building from there helped them secure an 11th-placed finish. The tiny difference between the mid-table clubs meant that they could easily have finished far lower, but bar a late drop in form, the Canaries never really looked like going down once the season had gotten into it's stride.

This year, they've been hugely impressive in the transfer market. Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer are excellent signings for a club of Norwich's stature, reflecting how far they've come as a club - Fer almost signed for Everton last year while it's not long since Van Wolfswinkel was linked to Manchester United. In addition, Nathan Redmond shows the club can compete for some of the top youngsters in England, while Gary Hooper could also be an astute move. If their new signings can bed in, then Norwich can really take themselves to the next level. Chris Hughton has rightly been regarded as a good manager for working in difficult conditions, but now he has stability and resources - the players he's bought have been promising ones, but it's time for him to show the world what 'his' team looks like.

Last year: 11th

Key player: Sebastian Bassong

If Bassong keeps his title as Norwich's best player by the end of the season then it'll be quite amazing, giving the additions to the squad, but the former Tottenham centre-back, voted the Canaries' player of the year last time out, needs to have another big season. Javier Garrido and Martin Olsson are the only defensive additions made to the squad so far, but Garrido was already at the club last year on loan, and Olsson is very much an attacking player. The midfield and forward line may be vastly improved from next year but they need a defence to match, and if Bassong can't match last season's heights then Norwich could have problems.

Potential breakout star: Nathan Redmond

While pretty much all of Norwich's signings this season could have huge seasons, Nathan Redmond is interesting because we know less about him than the others. He's been getting games, but only in the Championship, and it'll be interesting to see how his direct running and pace works in the Premier League. The other players were all already established, first-choice starters for big clubs like Sporting Lisbon and Celtic, but Redmond could offer the biggest surprise of the lot.

Additions: Nathan Redmond, Javier Garrido, Gary Hooper, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Leroy Fer, Martin Olsson, Carlo Nash

Pound for pound, (and on paper, since we've not seen how they get on yet) Norwich have probably been the most impressive side in the transfer window this summer. All of their additions (backup goalkeeper Nash aside) have big potential and are really exciting signings. At least one of Van Wolfswinkel and Hooper should guarantee the goals the club sorely missed last year, while Leroy Fer gives some much-needed presence in their midfield. Potentially some remarkable progress being made.

Departures: Simeon Jackson, Korey Smith, Mark Tierney, Elliot Ward, Chris Martin, Tom Adeyemi, George Francomb, Lee Camp, Jed Steer, James Vaughan, Grant Holt, Leon Barnett

Norwich have had a spring-clean of their squad this year, and although Grant Holt is a significant departure, they've more than adequately replaced him in their striking ranks. The rest of the losses are pretty insignificant, and players that were unlikely to get too many games anyway. The last whiffs of the Championship that remained at Carrow Road are being thoroughly Febrezed.

Could still leave: Probably no-one

Norwich have few real stars in their team, and they seem to have gotten rid of everybody they didn't want to keep around, so any significant departures from the club are probably unlikely.

Rumored transfer targets: Fabio Quagliarella, Ola Toivonen

Norwich have two fine strikers for this season, and decent options out wide, but look a bit flimsy in midfield besides Fer and potentially vulnerable in defence. Oddly, the club has only really been seriously linked to two more moves, and both are strikers. In addition, it's difficult to see what Quagliarella or Toivonen would bring to the team that Hooper and Wolfswinkel don't - all four are quite similar sorts of strikers, a bit physical, but mostly dependent on movement and finishing. Whether there are more secretive deals in the pipeline remain to be seen but it'd be surprising were the Canaries still after another forward.

Projected opening weekend starting XI: John Ruddy; Steven Whittaker, Bradley Johnson, Sebastian Bassong, Javier Garrido; Nathan Redmond, Leroy Fer, Jonny Howson, Robert Snodgrass; Gary Hooper, Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

Whether Chris Hughton will attempt to get Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel to operate in tandem is debatable, but he'd be a fool to at least not try to do so, or it seems a waste of resources. Nathan Redmond will probably rotate with Anthony Pilkington, who will probably miss the opening fixture due to injury, while Russell Martin could be preferred in defence.

Season prediction: 9th

Norwich should have a far more comfortable season than last, but it's doubtful whether their defence and central midfield are yet of the standard required to challenge for the Europa League. Their position last year was a flattering one, so while it may only be an improvement of two places it would still be a fine achievement for the Canaries to finish in the top half of the table.