Norwich’s relegation from the Premier League was confirmed following a 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa.
It was another short stay in the top flight for the Canaries, who return to the Sky Bet Championship after just one season.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what went wrong at Carrow Road, on and off the pitch.
How was the club’s summer recruitment?
⚡️ We're delighted to announce the signing of PAOK and Greece international winger Christos Tzolis!— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) August 12, 2021
Not great. Sporting director Stuart Webber conceded Norwich needed to do “perfect work” in building a squad capable of holding their own in the Premier League, but those efforts fell short once again.
The sale of key man Emi Buendia to Aston Villa in a £33million deal, depriving the regular supply line which had been so crucial for Teemu Pukki’s goals, was always going to leave a huge void to fill – as was the departure of all-action midfielder Oliver Skipp back to Tottenham after his successful loan spell.
Of the permanent summer signings, only Kosovo winger Milot Rashica stood out, with American frontman Josh Sargent – his ‘Scorpion flick’ strike at Watford aside – and Greece Under-21s forward Christos Tzolis failing to produce regular quality displays.
A season-long loan move for Chelsea’s Scotland talent Billy Gilmour divided opinion, although fellow temporary recruits full-back Brandon Williams, from Manchester United, and Norway midfielder Mathias Normann did bring some consistency.
Did Daniel Farke have to go?
All good things must come to an end.
After masterminding two Championship winning campaigns, Farke had plenty of credit in the bank to have another crack at Premier League survival, signing a new four-year contract during July 2021.
However, the alarming manner in which his side were brushed aside all too easily, seemingly not having become any more streetwise back in the top flight, and issues over integrating Gilmour as well as the freezing out of playmaker Todd Cantwell soon saw the seeds of doubt spread.
The Canaries finally recorded a first league win away at Brentford on November 6.
However, just a few hours later, Farke was gone along with all of his backroom staff as the Norfolk club opted for a wholesale change behind the scenes ahead of the international break.
So did Dean Smith do any better then?
A bit – but not enough to pull off what would have been one of the most remarkable survival acts.
Having made a swift return to the dugout after what was seen as a somewhat harsh dismissal by Aston Villa, Smith enjoyed a ‘new manager bounce’ with a home win over Southampton.
However, the same old failings soon set in again through a run of six straight league defeats without scoring a goal.
Back-to-back wins over Everton and at Watford briefly lifted Norwich out of the bottom three, but it proved a false dawn ahead of another lacklustre winless streak.
Although hope was briefly rekindled on the back of beating relegations rivals Burnley at Carrow Road in early April, which proved the last stand of Claret’s boss Sean Dyche, there was just too much left to do as Norwich’s fate was eventually sealed with four games left.
Who should shoulder the blame?
Take your pick.
There was hope the lessons of the previous failures – when Norwich dropped straight back down with just 21 points and nine successive defeats after Project Restart – would stand them in good stead for another crack at the Premier League.
Bringing in proven talent who could hit the ground running rather than be potential for the future should have proved more straightforward, even under the club’s self-funding model and strict wage structure.
It would, though, be unfair to land Norwich’s collective shortcomings on any one department at Carrow Road – whether that be recruitment, coaching or players – when all came up well short, on and off the pitch.
What are the prospects for next season?
After such a disappointing Premier League campaign – which saw only five wins and 23 defeats, with a minus 49 goal difference, when relegation was confirmed – Norwich fans will be expecting a much more positive outlook in the second tier.
The club have already shown they could bounce back twice, while Smith also oversaw a promotion campaign at Villa – and Fulham proved what can be achieved under a stable environment.
Having been everyone’s bankers for the drop, Norwich will now face the prospect of dealing with a favourites tag as they seek yet another successful Championship season.
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