A six-point gap between bottom of the table Norwich City and 17th-placed Watford tells you everything you need to know about the Canaries’ chances of survival this season.
A great escape isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. But it would represent a major shock if Daniel Farke’s men are able to avoid relegation to the Championship.
While not a desirable outcome, it does at least provide a degree of clarity for Norwich’s recruitment team. The likes of Aston Villa and Bournemouth are having to plan for the next transfer window with no idea which division they will be in – the Canaries will be assuming that they are heading for England’s second tier. Not that they would have any objection to throwing those plans out of the window if survival is achieved against the odds, of course.
A number of Norwich’s star players could leave regardless of whether or not they are a Premier League side next season. Creative outlets Emi Buendía and Todd Cantwell are top of that list, after enjoying impressive campaigns for the Norfolk side.
With the second-most chances created per 90 (3.26) in the whole of the top- flight, it’s perhaps no surprise that Buendía is drawing plenty of admiring glances. Last summer there was talk at the club that the playmaker could fetch up to £40million, but that fee is likely to be considerably less in the current economic climate.
Cantwell won’t come cheap either. The 22-year-old shot to fame this season after scoring an impressive six goals in his maiden top-flight campaign, with Liverpool reportedly ready to offer £30million to bring him to Anfield.
Top scorer Teemu Pukki may not have the same kind of market value, but the 30-year-old’s 41 strikes in two seasons will nonetheless be tempting to clubs higher up the food chain. Portuguese giants Benfica are the latest side to be linked with the Finnish forward.
Norwich City have conceded 1.67 goals per 90 so far this season, which is the second-worst record in the Premier League behind Aston Villa. But that isn’t putting clubs off the Canaries’ young defensive stars.
Right-back Max Aarons, left-sided defender Jamal Lewis and centre-back Ben Godfrey could all be sold for sizeable sums. That windfall may be needed too – Norwich are preparing for possible losses of up to £35million as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where all six of those players depart in one summer, but you would expect a sizeable chunk of the club’s top talent to leave in the next window. A significant rebuild is surely on the cards in the coming months, despite much of Norwich’s squad being good enough for a Championship promotion charge.
Key areas to strengthen
Norwich City’s recruitment is overseen by smooth operating sporting director Stuart Webber, who is a master at finding value on a budget. In a sense, they have already started preparing for some of the departures we can anticipate this summer. The Canaries signed Sam McCallum from Coventry City in January (before loaning him straight back for the rest of the season), so that he will be ready to step in if Lewis leaves the club.
Similarly, Sam Byram’s presence in the squad would make the loss of Aarons significantly more palatable.
The club have also agreed a deal to bring Luxembourg international forward Danel Sinani to Carrow Road from F91 Dudelange. But that doesn’t mean that further strengthening won’t be needed in the next window, depending on how many of the team’s top talents move on to pastures new.
A first-class replacement for Pukki will be essential if Benfica’s interest becomes concrete and Farke’s team would struggle without Cantwell and Buendía’s creative instincts. Shoring up a leaky backline will undoubtedly be a priority, so an additional centre-back is another position likely to be on the club’s summer wish list.
Sheffield Wednesday left-back Morgan Fox is available on a free transfer at the end of this season and could add depth to Norwich’s back line if reports linking him with the Canaries prove to be accurate.
A rumoured move for Real Madrid midfielder Óscar Rodríguez seems somewhat ambitious, but former Huddersfield Town winger Rajiv Van La Parra could be in line to join up with Norwich. He worked with Webber while both were with the Terriers. The low-budget nature of any potential transfer means the wideman is well within the club’s price range.
Queens Park Rangers winger Bright Osayi-Samuel is another possible target in that position, though reported interest from Club Brugge and West Ham United may mean Norwich would have to survive in the Premier League for him to choose a move to East Anglia.
Stories emanating from Germany are suggesting that the Canaries have already tied up a deal for 19-year-old American striker Sebastian Soto from Hannover 96. He’s unlikely to be the only attacker heading for Carrow Road in the summer.
Paris Saint-Germain youngster Alexandre Fressange and Reading’s teenage forward Danny Loader are also believed to be on the club’s radar, indicating that we should perhaps expect a focus on youth at Norwich City when the transfer window reopens.