Chris Hughton will reap the benefits from Norwich City’s thirst for goals

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Ricky van Wolfswinkel: Norwich's marquee can deliver goals.GettyImagesRicky van Wolfswinkel has scored just one Premier League goal.

The sparks between Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper could trigger a great leap forward for Norwich City's Premier League ambitions.

Born just a year apart and moulded from vastly different football backgrounds, the Canaries' expensively-acquired new strikers find themselves thrust together ahead of their first tilt at English football's top flight. Hooper opened his Norwich goal account with a brace against Braga in City's final pre-season away friendly. Van Wolfswinkel responded with a maiden goal in his first Carrow Road outing during this week's latest 1-1 draw against Champions League hopefuls Real Sociedad.

Chris Hughton is unlikely to care who edges that personal, internal duel - the Canaries' boss is driven by the greater good and improving on two consecutive mid-table finishes. Norwich City's defensive resolution on his watch may have secured their Premier League status last season, but the underlying weakness was a chronic shortage of potency and power in forward areas.

Grant Holt again shouldered the main burden, with a measure of City's relative desperation illustrated by seeking a short-term fix in the shape of Kansas City loanee Kei Kamara. The Sierra Leone international's infectious presence had the desired effect in helping push the Canaries over the finishing line, but those consecutive league wins in the final week of the previous campaign should not mask the scale of the struggle in the intervening period.

Norwich laboured for the majority of Hughton's first season at the helm to embellish the rigidity and defensive discipline that characterised their best moments on that journey. Wins over Manchester United and Arsenal, even victory at Swansea to a lesser extent, were all testament to City's ability to absorb pressure and extract the optimum returns from a set piece threat in the shape of men like Robert Snodgrass or Anthony Pilkington.

Hughton has sought to address that key deficiency with the high profile, multi-million pound arrivals of van Wolfswinkel and Hooper. Both were prolific scorers in domestic football in the less intense surroundings of Portugal and Scotland. Both made their mark on European club competition at Sporting Lisbon and Celtic respectively, but England and the physically demanding grind of the Premier League marks a new frontier.

Bar a brief 25 minute experiment recently in northern Portugal, Hughton has opted not to play the duo together. The lone front-running system seemingly appears his preferred method of choice once again despite a greater depth to his attacking riches. Which begs the obvious question of just who will prevail for Everton's Premier League opening day visit on August 17? Given the fanfare and the club-record outlay, Van Wolfswinkel's claims to spearhead Norwich's attack carry greater weight but Hooper has already shown he can exert pressure on the Dutch international.

The Essex boy spoke of his own international ambitions when he was unveiled recently by revealing England boss Roy Hodgson had indicated Hooper was on his radar last season as he plundered goals for fun at Celtic Park. In a World Cup-cycle, the 26-year-old knows a seamless transition south of the border can help him gatecrash Hodgson's plans for Brazil if the Three Lions manage to extricate themselves from their qualifying group. To do that, he may first have to find a route past Van Wolfswinkel.


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