Alderweireld was at Ajax in the Dutch league when Norwich had a fee agreed with his club. However, despite agreeing on ambition and directives, Norwich were not able to match Alderweireld’s wage demands.
The problem was not that Norwich didn’t fit Toby’s ambitions, but we simply failed to agree terms.
David McNally and friends must be kicking themselves now that they did not pay that extra little bit of money as now he is arguably the best central defender in the Premier League.
Norwich ended up being relegated the year they could have signed him and have had defensive problems ever since. It has been Norwich’s unwillingness to splash the cash on a defender over the last 2/3 years that has caused so many problems.
Now, I know this was over two years ago but it brings about a problem that is much more deep seeded than just this particular deal.
If you look at the back five (goalkeeper included) that ended the match against West Ham at the weekend; four out of the five were in the defence that got us relegated from the Premier League two years ago. Three of them were also at the club when we struggled the season before but still somehow finished 11th.
This begs the question; how on earth have Norwich still not sorted out the defensive problems?
Despite keeping 12 clean sheets the season we were relegated, we also conceded 62 goals in our 38 matches. This simply isn’t good enough, certainly not if you want to retain your Premier League place. So, why did Norwich not amend in the three windows that occurred before last month’s window?
The summer after we went down was probably the worst window in a long time in terms of defensive reinforcements. We signed Carlos Cuellar, Jos Hoiveld, Ignasi Miquel. Not three names that would immediately spring to mind if you were trying to improve your defence to play in the Premier League.
None of them, unsurprisingly, worked out. Hoiveld cut his loan short and ended up at Millwall, Cuellar left on a free when his one-year contract expired and Miquel had his contract terminated early after making zero first-team appearances throughout the whole Championship campaign.
Norwich were promoted to the Premier League last season and heading into the summer window it was clear that a centre-back was an absolute must, there were no two ways about it. Ryan Bennett and Sebastien Bassong were the only two senior ‘natural’ centre-backs at the club (Russell Martin is in no way a ‘natural’ centre back). This meant that a defender was needed.
So, what did McNally and friends do? Nothing, they did nothing. Not a single defender was signed (Robbie Brady could be argued as a defensive signing as he has played left-back). As soon as the window shut in the summer fans could already tell the club had failed tremendously.
Since then, Norwich’s defensive woes have cost them many, many, many, many, many points… and that is not over exaggerating. Just three Premier League clean sheets all season and the most goals conceded says it all. Not to mention that all three clean sheets came in games where the opposition were in dire form and played poorly.
Then the January window opened last month and Norwich knew they were all but guaranteed to go down if they didn’t act on their summer failings. In fairness to the club, they did splash the cash this time around on Timm Klose for around £9m and Ivo Pinto for around £2.5m. But, it really still isn’t enough.
Ivo Pinto isn’t even getting into the team ahead of Russell Martin, yes… Russell bloody Martin. Pinto has played two games, against Liverpool and Tottenham and somehow Alex Neil has been able to judge that he isn’t good enough for the Premier League. This either says a lot about Neil’s poor judgement or Norwich’s poor scouts. For the record, I think it is down to Alex Neil’s poor judgement… I mean, he has been playing Russell Martin, Sebastien Bassong, Gary O’Neil and Cameron Jerome all season, he surely can’t be sane.
I really do think Timm Klose is an excellent signing. Well, he would be if Norwich had of signed another centre back with pace that could actually defend. Klose is a superb defender when it comes to tackling technique and winning the ball in the air or on the ground but he is very slow. He really needs a centre back with pace who can read the game and sweep up behind him when needed. It seems so simple yet it is something that the management team seem incapable of understanding.
A lot of people blamed Alex Neil for not bringing in defenders in the summer, and potentially not bringing in enough last month. However, the same can be said for Chris Hughton in the summer of his last season, and the January window of his last season, as well as Neil Adams last season in the Championship. So it is either a case of Norwich hiring a string of managers who are incapable of making signings or it is the boards fault for not recognising the problem and being able to acquire the players needed. Whichever way you look at it; it whittles down to one source, the board.
There has been a lot of criticism aimed at the board since the millennium it took to sack Hughton even though it was clear for about 18 months that his time was up, eventually sacking him with the club outside the relegation zone with five matches to go, brilliant logic. The fans became even more distasteful of the board when the ‘cheap option’ in Neil Adams was appointed and after his failure, another ‘cheap option’ in Alex Neil.
Alex Neil paid off in the short-term as his arrival sparked an under-performing Norwich side to perform at their true levels, which pretty much any managerial appointment would have helped do. However, the choice to hire Neil looks to be backfiring with his Premier League inexperience and judgement costing the club precious points each week. However, I’m starting to spiral down a different route now so I think I should end with one last thing……
Regardless of what league we are in come next summer; a complete defensive overhaul is needed in the window and there can be no excuses for failure.