If you didn’t know anything about Norwich City, you might have looked at how they dominated the Championship last season—the Canaries finished at the top of the table with 97 points and a plus-39 goal differential—and thought you were looking at a team with a good shot at staying in the Premier League. You would be mistaken. As they are proving once again this year, there is just something about this team that keeps it stuck in purgatory, narrowly defined as a team that is probably too good for the Championship but definitely not good enough for the Premier League.
Norwich lost to Leeds today, 2-1, and in the process continued to put together what’s shaping up to be the worst Premier League season in history. That dishonor is currently held by Derby County, which won a single game in the 2007-08 season and finished the campaign with 11 points. When that team was 10 games into its season, it had managed to rack up six points. Norwich are now 10 games into this season, and they have, yikes, two points.
It’s hard to find any kind of silver lining around Norwich’s ghastly results. They’ve allowed 25 goals and scored just three. Just one goal came from open play. Their two points came from goalless draws against Burnley and Brighton. After getting blown out 7-0 by Chelsea last weekend, today’s game against a struggling Leeds side represented a chance to bounce back and finally gain some control over the season. Instead, the Canaries just kept doing what they’ve always done: Make a respectable effort to play positively and score goals, only to see those efforts undone by a total inability to finish attacks or defend even a little bit.
It’s that consistent desire to play an attacking style that makes Norwich’s struggles this year such a bummer. The team has yo-yo’d between the Premier League and the Championship several times in the last decade, and though they’ve never been good enough to establish a foothold, they’ve never been an unwelcome presence in the top league. There are some genuinely fun players on this team—Teemu Pukki’s 2019-20 campaign was a delight—and I will always maintain that their 3-2 victory over Manchester City in Sept. 2019 was one of the more thrilling Premier League games I’ve seen.
This isn’t to say that Norwich have been hard done, or that they somehow deserve more than the two points they currently have. Plenty of other teams have proven that promotion to the Premier League can be followed up with positive seasons and establishment as a top-flight club. This version of Norwich boasts a collection of players who have been with the team for several seasons and have proven that they can dominate the Championship. It’s not out of the question to expect a team like that to be able to cohere into a functional Premier League side. And yet even after bringing in a raft of quality players via loans and transfers, all Norwich has been able to do is play like what looks like the worst Premier League side in history. It’s better to be a yo-yo club than one that languishes in the lower leagues for years at a time, but at this point Norwich fans have to be thinking they deserve better than this.