It has now been confirmed that Norwich City have agreed a deal for Sporting Lisbon forward Ricky van Wolfswinkel to join in the summer. The 24 year old will join in a deal worth around £8.5m on a four year contract and whilst this may seem like a relative coup for Norwich it is probably more a sign of the other side’s desperation for the move to happen.
For Sporting these are tough times. They are under performing in the league and in severe financial problems. The fee is believed to have been paid upfront despite the player not actually joining until 1 July. This can also explain why Norwich were able to get a player with a buyout clause of £18.7m for such a small fee.
Norwich currently boast four main strikers on their books; captain Grant Holt, Simeon Jackson and January signings Luciano Becchio and Kei Kamara. The latter is only on loan until the end of the season but this whole scenario might never have occurred had Norwich succeeded in their January bid for Celtic striker Gary Hooper. When they failed to conclude that transfer they moved quickly to snap up Becchio and Kamara but as things stand the two have only managed to register a solitary league goal between them.
The current incumbents haven’t fared much better Jackson has three goals in the league whilst the talismanic Holt can only score his tally at five. That being said it is worth noting that Holt’s figure does place him at the top of Norwich’s scoring charts and it must be a concern for Chris Hughton that despite being 12th in the table only Aston Villa and QPR have scored fewer at home.
Does this then mean the perfect platform for the player they call The Wolf? On paper it would seem so. His goal ratio over his club career has always hovered around the one in three or one in two mark and in comparison to his rivals’ ratios of one in six (Holt this season) or around one in five (Jackson this season) he does look like a genuine prospect.
So much emphasis is placed on balance within a team but I’m a firm believer in football being a game of scoring more than your opponent. You could have an extremely suspect defence but with a world class forward leading the line you could still do well. Whilst Norwich’s defence isn’t spectacularly bad their lack of goals is really hurting them and this a real signal of intent from Norwich that they aren’t just here for a few seasons, they want to become a permanent fixture.
Van Wolfswinkel could be the perfect forward for this. Since joining Sporting the physical side of his game has come on a lot and he is no longer just an out and out goal scorer. He understands how to bring his team mates into the game more and because of that he is now a viable option as a lone forward. This will be useful for Norwich especially away from home where they will look to pack the midfield and play with just one striker. Of course Grant Holt performs this role extremely well for them but his goal return just isn’t good enough and he’ll be 32 next month.
He can be a useful option from the bench and as rotation but even he must know the clock is ticking quicker than ever before. With Van Wolfswinkel leading the line not only will Norwich have a big man to play it to they will also have a player who is a genuine goal threat which will release the pressure on some of their midfielders. Players like Robert Snodgrass and Wes Hoolahan have been relied on too often this season and the strain is starting to show. In all competitions Norwich have only won twice since the New Year and one of those came in the FA Cup away at struggling Peterborough.
Signing Van Wolfswinkel is not only a tribute to where Norwich are as a club, it also speaks volumes of where they want to go. The Dutchman was playing for a side who are used to competing in Europe and it is clear that is where Norwich want to be. Stoke have tasted European football over recent seasons and now Swansea, a side who came up with Norwich, will be plying their trade in the Europa League next season. As far as this signing goes it is just the next phase in the Norwich masterplan and in my opinion it was the right move.