FPL Preview: Norwich City

Norwich

Norwich City enters the 2015/16 season off the back of a fantastic Wembley performance in the Championship playoff final, where they beat Middlesbrough 2-0 to clinch their return to the top flight. Norwich City were relegated from the Premier League in the 2013/14 season and so managed to bounce straight back with a squad that still retains many elements of the team that played that relegation season. In the offseason they have added Dorrans, who was on loan, and Mulumbu which should bolster an already strong looking midfield with some proven Premier League options. And hopefully the return of van Wolfswinkel from loan can add to an already very impressive group of strikers. So far they have yet to lose anyone and right now I cannot see any top end guys leaving, but they may let some of the depth players go to Championship clubs if the price is right.

Early Fixtures Outlook: vs Palace, @ Sunderland, vs Stoke, @ Southampton, vs Bournemouth, @ Liverpool

If Norwich don’t get off to a hot start they could be in trouble as they have four relatively friendly fixtures. Palace and Sunderland normally start low, and Stoke are a bag of mystery which could go either way. The Bournemouth game is a massive early six-pointer that could be a shootout, so we will get an idea how the Norwich attack is clicking in this first month and half. How the defence will fair will likely be seen from the Southampton and Liverpool performance meaning this first six weeks could be a micro view of Norwich’s season.

Goalkeeper Outlook: John Ruddy (£4.5m)

The 2015/16 season will be Ruddy’s fourth in the Premier League with Norwich having been their goalkeeper each of the three seasons they were in the league before. In those three seasons he averaged three saves per game, which, on average earns him a point extra per game in the standard EPL fantasy game. The issue is I don’t envision a lot of clean sheets. And while his price is in the lower end for a goalkeeper who should start most games, I cannot see him regularly scoring more than three points which is what you require even from a bench/match-up keeper. Ruddy is probably a guy to avoid for fantasy even though he has heaps of talent.

Defence

There is no real stud defender entering this season because there is no Norwich defender I can comfortably say that I would want in my team in either salary or draft leagues. They don’t look to be the most solid team at the back and so clean sheet opportunities may be limited.

Sleeper: Martin Olsson (£4.5m)

The young left back looked really accomplished when Norwich were relegated, and that is reinforced by the fact that West Brom were chasing him last January. While I expect his value to be limited in the salary cap format due to the lack of clean sheets, he could be a sneaky late round pick in draft leagues especially if the league awards points for crosses.

As for the rest of the defence, the right back position is looking likely to be Steven Whittaker’s but they may look to bring in someone who is a bit more exciting if there is any options available on the open market; Glen Johnson would be a nice addition if the wage price is right. In the centre of defence I expect they will go with the pairing of Bassong and Martin, who looked good last year and became the real back bone of Alex Neil’s defence on their route to promotion last year. However, I cannot see any of these guys being players you can trust week to week.

Midfield

Sleeper: Bradley Johnson (£5.5m)

Johnson was frankly amazing last year, scoring 15 goals in 44 appearances to help Norwich reach the Premier League. The worry is that his previous high for Norwich was three goals the previous year, so the question is was last year a fluke or something new about the way he is being used/playing? His shots per game were over one higher than they have been in any other season with Norwich, and he won one more aerial duel per game than he had done previously, which both may be indicators of why he had such a good season in front of goal. Johnson’s potential is tied into the price because he now has the ability to be a George Boyd/Mile Jedinak-style of player from last year, who could end up being a sneaky fourth midfielder for fifth midfielder price.

Nathan Redmond

Sleeper: Nathan Redmond (£5.5m)

The young Englishman didn’t live up to the hype in the Under-21s tournament this year, and was frustrating at times last season. But my god, is he a talented footballer. A small man with a lot of pace, he can cause defences a lot of troubles with both his running and his ability to find the right pass. His finishing lacks a little bit and he can often make the wrong decision, but coming off a six goal and 13 assist season in the Championship last season he could be a diamond in the rough. The price seems to be about right for Redmond as he has the potential to produce decent stats, but the consistency is the issue.

The rest of the midfield will hinge around the performance of Wes Hoolahan; if he is on form then he will be a permanent fixture in the number 10 spot and all will fall around that and could make him a sneaky fifth midfielder option, especially at a £5.0m price tag. The other key components of the midfield are Jonny Howson and Alexander Tettey but I don’t expect them to be much more than defensive midfield options that won’t be fantasy relevant.  The other options include Dorrans and Mulumbu, but again I cannot see either of them being goal threats or massive assist makers.

Strikers

Stud:  Cameron Jerome (£5.0m)

I hate to do this because I think he is at least the third best striker Norwich have entering this year, but Jerome was so reliable last year at holding the ball up and causing general mayhem going forward that Alex Neil is going to give him every chance. Jerome has the Premier League experience from his time at Stoke and, as I found often last year, any regularly starting striker is a good one for FPL. Where, commonly, two or more are needed. The cheap price tag means he is definitely someone I will consider in my third striker spot, but be ready to move on if he doesn’t perform and Neil turns elsewhere.

Sleeper: Gary Hooper (£4.5m)

This is the man I want to see leading the line for Norwich. Watching Hooper play, he always seems so close to being there, and when he is he could be lethal for Norwich. He tore it up for Celtic in the Scottish league, but has struggled since coming down south. Part of that may be that he hasn’t been given the chance to really run with the job under a fluctuating managerial situation. But if he does get the chance this year he needs to grab it. And then we could have a Danny Ings-style player on our hands.

The other player I actually like over Jerome is Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who started his Norwich career with a goal in his first Premier League game before going on a VERY frustrating goal drought. He spent last year on loan and it looks like he may return to play some role in Alex Neil’s first season in the Premier League. If he can settle back in, then his ability to head the ball could be a great asset if Norwich can start getting the ball in the box from their full backs. Right now he is nothing more than one to have on the radar unless we hear some promising news. The only other player who may have some relevance up front is Lewis Grabban but I see his role as fresh legs with speed off the bench which is not a role that screams fantasy relevance.

Predicted Opening Day Line-up:

GK: John Ruddy

RB: Steven Whittaker

CB: Russell Martin

CB: Sebastian Bassong

LB: Martin Olsson

CM: Bradley Johnson

CM: Alexander Tettey

RW: Nathan Redmond

LW: Jonathan Howson

CAM: Wes Hoolahan

ST: Cameron Jerome

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