Pundits have their say - and it looks like it’s the play-offs for Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It's the question we all ask: where will Norwich City finish this season?
Our top writers and columnists don't escape – here they give their predictions for the campaign.
• IWAN ROBERTS
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Norwich City have more than what it takes to win promotion back to the Premier League. They have a very good chance of winning automatic promotion as there's not a standout favourite to win the league. At the very least they shouldn't finish outside the play-off positions. Only Snodgrass and van Wolfswinkel have left the club. They have managed to keep hold of John Ruddy, one of the best keepers in the division. They have brought two forwards in to bolster the forward line. Neil has good options in every position which he's going to need in a 46-game season.
Pre-season has gone very well, scoring plenty of goals and creating plenty of chances.
If the club can keep hold of the likes of Nathan Redmond, Josh Murphy and Gary Hooper, it will be a good season for them.
• PADDY DAVITT
City's squad looks as strong as any taking shape in the Championship but only when the summer transfer window closes will Neil Adams know which resources he has at his disposal for the battles ahead. Norwich's midfield creativity and attacking potency was evident during pre-season and plenty of league opponents may have cause to feel the full force of City's forward thrust, but defensive concerns remain with central defence a particular worry should injuries or suspensions bite for Russell Martin, Michael Turner or Ryan Bennett. Norwich know the value of early momentum and the opportunity to cash in at Ipswich's expense with a derby trip to Portman Road in the opening month could just be the trigger to help Adams' squad justify their billing as one of the teams justifiably touted for promotion.
• MICHAEL BAILEY
There's no hiding, there has to be no hangover, and you have to ignore the history. While many seem to make hard work of their first attempt at a Premier League return from the Championship, the fact is the Canaries have almost everything in their favour so far this summer. The squad is pretty settled – and their start will be key to keeping it that way before the transfer window closes. The manager is hungry, his signings are promising and the boardroom is steering. The first shot is City's best shot; a top-six finish is the minimum requirement and a play-off victory at Wembley the most enjoyable way to get promoted – as well as almost certainly fitting City's apparently new and rather open philosophy. There are going to be a lot of goals. Hopefully City do manage to score more often than they concede.
• CHRIS GOREHAM
Prediction: Top eight
The Championship is a delightfully mad old league and in previous seasons a confident feeling in August has led to a relegation scrap while going into our last campaign at this level I would have been happy with a mid-table finish only to see Paul Lambert's canaries storm to automatic promotion. There's enough talent within the squad to suggest a push for the play-offs should be seen as the very least of our realistic ambitions but until we can shut the transfer window and keep those Premier League vultures out once and for all, even Neil Adams won't be certain who will be in his squad come September. There's an excitement in not knowing but an East Anglian derby play-off final has to happen at some point in time. Actually let's not think about that and just see how it all turns out.
• CHRIS LAKEY
Not sure anyone can say this Championship campaign has any real shining lights in it: which suggests City have as good a chance as anyone of escaping. The absence of those players who jumped ship this summer might not be the biggest problem – that will come in January when those who decided to stick a toe in the Championship waters turn around and decide it's not for them. If the dynamic of the team has changed from last season and the pessimism has been replaced by a bit of tub-thumping optimism, then City will be up there. Keeping Wes Hoolahan on board is good news because the man has magic in his feet – it just needs his mind to be in synch. And if John Ruddy stays the distance, it sends out a terrific message to other players and fans alike: forget last year, think next year – and drop the egos.
• MARK ARMSTRONG
Freed from Chris Hughton's tactical straitjacket, manager Neil Adams will unearth City's creative streak to secure a play-off spot. It's no surprise to see the Canaries boss welcome Wes Hoolahan back into the fold. When played through the middle, without too much defensive burden, Norwich fans know what he can do in the Championship – just please don't play him out wide. Lewis Grabban and Kyle Lafferty will be licking their lips at the supply line the little Irishman can provide whilst Andrew Surman's reintegration into the squad could add a flamboyance rarely seen at Carrow Road in the last two seasons. It's difficult to see where danger lies in terms of promotion rivals and there are few better squads in the second tier. Whatever happens, it will be a lot more entertaining than some of the dirge served up since Paul Lambert left the club.
• DAVID POWLES
The squad looks strong, but there are two uncertainties that hold me back from an even more positive prediction. The first is just how many of them will remain come the end of August? The second is how much of a hangover will remain from last season? I always get concerned when a squad that is in the habit of losing, remains largely intact. That said I'm generally a positive fan, hence the expectations of a positive season. The prospect of Lafferty and Grabban up front is a mouth-watering one – there's definitely goals in that partnership, though I'd like to see another striker brought in for extras cover. It would be good to get in a young Premier League star of the future with bags of confidence. Once you reach the play-offs it's a complete lottery and impossible to predict.
• DAVID FREEZER
Not sure the Championship will be as strong as previous seasons. There are plenty of clubs lacking off-field stability and on-field talent in the division, so I would expect City to be in the top six consistently once they've hit their stride. Derby, Brighton and Reading could all challenge the relegated trio of Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff but I would be surprised if City finished in the top two, unless they can really hit the ground running and build some momentum under Neil Adams. I have a feeling it won't be as smooth as that though. If the rollercoaster ride should finish in the top six, it would be an admirable achievement given how difficult it is to shake off a relegation hangover. A first green and yellow invasion of the new Wembley sounds good to me.