Who would you pluck for Norwich City from teams in Premier League trouble?
For so many years Norwich City were the hunted; bigger clubs were free to pick off our best players, safe in the knowledge we didn’t have the power to resist.
But is the tide turning? Is the hunted about to turn hunter?
With another season in the Premier League all but secured, along with all of the financial riches that goes with it, the current powers that be must be finding it easier to resist bids for their best players than any of their predecessors.
While they may choose to sell on some of the star names should an offer be big enough, or their own personal demands too high, we are not in a scenario where the sale is needed simply to stop the lenders from putting us out of business.
And with that comes the flip-side, we are able to spend more money snapping up players from those clubs needing or willing to sell.
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So far in his three years at the club manager Paul Lambert’s transfer policy has been fairly consistent – buy players from lower leagues in who you spot the talent and hunger to succeed.
And so far it has worked excellently, with very few dud signings. This policy, if successful, probably also saves the club a bit of cash, in that fees and wages are probably lower than were you taking someone from the Premier League.
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It will be interesting to see if that policy changes at all once the club has a bit more money burning a hole in its pocket.
As the club looks to progress for yet another season, will it feel the need to look to sign more established Premier League players or will it be a case of stick with what has worked so far?
One option for the manger is to emulate a well-worn tactic on multi-selling computer game Football Manager.
It is a fairly common tactic to spend hours trawling through the squads of clubs relegated from your league to see if there’s any talent worth plundering.
I wonder whether managers in the actual game do this as well? Was Lambert watching Saturday’s game against Wolves with half an eye on potential players for next season?
And if he were, who might he want to buy?
It wouldn’t be just anyone, the price would have to be right both in terms of fee and wage.
Evolution, rather than revolution, is the overall Lambert ethos, so he will only be looking for players in certain positions that he has probably already identified as in need of strengthening.
For what it’s worth, I’m guessing we might be in the market for a centre-back, left-back, right-back, winger and striker in the summer.
One concern would be the impact being in a relegated team has had on that player. Are they part of a poor team for a fundamental reason?
And of course whomever he may be interested in would have to fit in with the Lambert player ethos. They must be hungry and have the right attitude.
Bearing all this in mind I put this to the test and trawled through the squads of the six teams most likely to go down to list some potentials.
I also sought the views of those good people on Twitter…
• Aston Villa
Me – They are unlikely to go down and wage bills of the likes of Richard Dunne and Stephen Warnock are likely to be beyond us. I couldn’t identify any player for Norwich, definitely not Andy Marshall!
Twitter – Marc Albrighton
• Blackburn Rovers
Me – Midfielder Steven Nzonzi looked immense at Carrow Road earlier in the season and I can’t believe he doesn’t have more suitors. Grant Hanley may be worth a look at centre back. Junior Hoilett, Ayegbeni Yakubu and Morten Gamst Pedersen will probably be out of our reach.
Twitter – Junior Hoilett, Ayegbeni Yakubu, Steven Nzonzi
• Bolton Wanderers
Me – Either midfielders Stuart Holden or Mark Davies could do a job for Norwich and compliment what we already have. Chris Eagles has always looked like a player with potential.
Twitter – Stuart Holden
• Queens Park Rangers
Me – Not at all keen on QPR’s squad, which is why I think they will go down. Alejando Faurlin would be worth a look, but is he better than David Fox?
Twitter – Jamie Mackie
• Wigan Athletic
Me – The player who most impressed me most at Carrow Road recently was James McArthur, who dominated the midfield. At 30 Gary Caldwell may have the talent but might be a couple of years too old for Lambert’s tastes. Neither strikers Victor Moses or Hugo Rodellega do it enough for me.
Twitter – Victor Moses , James McCarthy, Hugo Rodallega, Shaun Maloney, Ali Al Habsi
• Wolverhampton Wanderers
Me – If Wolves go down and I were Lambert (I realise one is more likely than the other!) I’d make Matthew Jarvis a top target for the summer. Real skill and pace, an ability to score, I was also impressed by his attitude last weekend. He never gave up. Full-back Richard Stearman is a player who impresses me too and Steven Fletcher would be a great buy but is maybe a bit out of reach. A year ago, as a Birmingham centre-back, I would have said Roger Johnson. Not now though.
Twitter – Jarvis, Fletcher, Adam Hamill
1. Now survival is all but secured (and let’s be honest it was prior to Saturday’s win), on the face of it we are simply in a battle to win as much prize money as possible for our final league position. However, there’s another mini-league many Norwich fans will no doubt be keen for us to win – the race to be the highest of the promoted sides. With QPR some way behind us it becomes a straight race with Swansea from here on in.
2. Kudos to the other half for noticing the lack of debate or opinion, let alone support, to the question of whether Grant Holt should make the England squad. Now by far and away the second highest English scorer in the league, is it so beyond the pale that such a debate should at least take place within the established media and pundits? For me it’s a choice between him and Peter Crouch as both would give us something different to the rest of the strike force. I’m fed up with this constant obsession with playing youngsters for the good of the future. It’s simple – play the best and most in-form.
3. There’s no denying Elliott Ward had a bit of a nightmare during the first half on Saturday, but I’m not sure he was the only one to blame or warranted some of the negative reaction he was getting. If you are the last line of defence and no one is showing for you or finding space to receive the ball, mistakes are not only likely to happen but they are so much more obvious than if they happen further up the field. It was so noticeable in the second half how much more support Ward and Whitbread were getting from the rest of the team. Wolves, to their cost, also stopped pressing quite as hard as they were.
4. The really geeky football computer game nerds out there will know what I mean when I describe the view for the Newcastle game as being ‘Sensible Soccer-esque’. If not, imagine watching a match from a plane about to land, but has managed to stop in mid-air. Despite the game being a little disappointing, despite the lack of singing from the home fans and despite the panicked cries for the first 15 minutes from my vertigo suffering mother-in-law, the Sports Direct Arena experience was great as a one-off. Can’t say I’d like to have that view every week mind you.