Does the departure of Paul Lambert spell the end of Norwich's time in the Premier League or can Chris Hughton work another miracle?
Last Season: 12th
In: Michael Turner (£1.6m, Sunderland), Robert Snodgrass (£2.8m, Leeds United), Jacob Butterfield (free transfer, Barnsley), Steven Whittaker (free transfer, Rangers)
Out: Andrew Crofts (undisclosed, Brighton & Hove Albion), Daniel Ayala (free transfer, Nottingham Forest), Zak Whitbread (free tranfser), Aaron Wilbraham (free transfer, Crystal Palace), Adam Drury (free transfer, Leeds United)
If they were an Olympian: Rebecca Adlington. Likable country lass, done exceptionally well to reach the top, uncertain of how long it can be sustained, suffered recent blows.
Chris Hughton is due some good luck; first he was unceremoniously sacked by Newcastle after guiding them back to the Premier League as runaway champions. Then he took over at Birmingham only for the club to become engulfed in a financial quagmire. In spite of this he took Birmingham to the play offs with a thread bare squad.
The well respected and amiable Hughton takes charge at Norwich with the club enjoying three years of sustained success under the reign of previous coach Paul Lambert. The task for Hughton this season is simple; consolidate and ensure that Norwich are not victims to that most annoying of terms, "second seasonitis".
Much of Lambert's success was based around getting the best out of players who had little or no experience of top flight football. Some of the club's best performers last season were young hungry players such as wingers Anthony Pilkington and Elliot Bennett, who arrived from Huddersfield and Brighton respectively. Hughton will need to work similar miracles as the club has continued its policy of not gambling the club's future with the signing of expensive Premier League players.
The one exception to this rule was the acquisition of Michale Turner, 28, from Sunderland as Daniel Ayala has departed for Nottingham Forest and the former Hull City man will provide an experienced head, providing he can put the previous years injury problems behind him.
Norwich, as has already been discussed in these previews, were one of the more flexible sides in the league last year and whether Hughton continues this policy will be of interest. Norwich often lined up with a midfield diamond but Hughton, at both Newcastle and Birmingham, has usually been a firm advocate of a flat 4-4-2. Norwich have the players for both, with Howson, Snodgrass, Andrew Surman and David Fox all versatile. Up front too, Grant Holt and Steve Morison are far more than the battering rams that their frames suggest.
The arrival of Steven Whittaker from Rangers, is an acceptable replacement for Kyle Naughton but will not provide the same energy and attacking impetus as the Spur's loanee did.
The major problem for Norwich this season will be coping with the loss of Lambert, who instilled such belief and confidence in a team that had been languishing bottom of League One. The club have a fairly daunting opening set of fixtures as they face Tottenham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in their first 8 games. I fear that a bad start will be the start of a rapid spiral for Norwich which may well lead to them dropping into the relegation zone.
Predicted Finish: 18th
Key Man: Wes Hoolahan. A real star for Paul Lambert and a key factor in the club's meteoric rise from League One to the Premier League, the Irishman was the crucial link between Norwich's midfield and attack last term and Chris Hughton will be hoping that the diminutive Hoolahan can continue his fine form. Able to play at the top of a diamond and off the strikers.
Underrated: Jonny Howson. Norwich must have a strong attraction to those from Yorkshire as in the past 12 months Howson, Bradley Johnson and Robert Snodgras have all headed down from Leeds to East-Anglia. For years Leeds fans had extolled the qualities of local boy Howson, and he began to demonstrate those qualities towards the end of last season for Norwich. Paul Lambert often played Howson further forward than he had previously played, and this proved to be an astute move as Howson's endless energy and drive caused problems for opposing defences.
Watch out for: Robert Snodgrass. Another of the Leeds alumni, Snodgrass has been linked with a move to the Premier League for years and this season gives the Scottish international the chance to prove that excellent performances in the F.A. Cup against Premier League sides can be repeated on a consistent basis. Will probably be asked to play off front men Grant Holt and Steve Morrison or to come on as an impact substitute. The Scot is something of a set-piece specialist.