Action, not words, must define van Wolfswinkel's, Hooper’s Norwich careers

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Chris Hughton's backing for Norwich City’s club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel was a telling postscript to Sunday's stirring Premier League loss to Chelsea.

Tony Marshall/Getty ImagesWhen the Premier League season resumes Norwich supporters are going to expect Ricky van Wolfswinkel to pick up the scoring pace.

The Canaries were four minutes from a hard-earned and fully merited point to ease them into the latest international break when Eden Hazard and Willian struck in devastating fashion.

The post-match discourse predictably focused on those two multi-million pound trinkets Jose Mourinho was able to introduce from his expensively acquired substitutes’ bench at Carrow Road.

Willian’s transfer figure, it is fair to state in an era of undisclosed fees, outstripped the Canaries' entire outlay from an historic summer. City’s top brass armed Hughton with spending power on a scale unimaginable to any of his predecessors. Norwich attracted seven new permanent signings, headlined by van Wolfswinkel’s ambitious capture after two years of plunder at Lisbon, while Gary Hooper’s arrival marked a fruitful conclusion to a prolonged courtship with Celtic that had its origins in the previous transfer window.

Both were seen as the missing ingredients. The guarantee of goals to embellish a defensive resolution that secured the club’s Premier League status last time around. But just as Hazard and Willian have to carry the burden of their respective price tags, lavish spending (by Norwich’s standards) to entice van Wolfswinkel and Hooper to Norfolk ratchets up expectations and shortens the periods of acclimation required.

The duo have also been hampered by injuries in the opening months, but one Premier League goal from the Dutchman in the opening day 2-2 league draw against Everton is a sparse early dividend. Hooper’s scoring instincts salvaged a seemingly lost cause in the Capital One Cup at Watford with a match-winning brace, but the former Celtic man has been restricted to just two cameos from the bench in the league.

Hughton has made it abundantly clear the onus is on the new players to integrate into his preferred style. In forward areas, the Norwich chief is a disciple of the one up-top and one withdrawn coupling that appears to be in vogue in the modern-day Premier League. The City boss has publicly said van Wolfswinkel is better suited to operate as the spearhead. Hooper’s flexibility and athleticism appear more likely to cast him in that chief support role.

The large constituency of Norwich fans who crave a productive union between the pair may have to get used to disappointment in that sphere. To start both would be to disrupt Hughton’s new-look central midfield trio of Alex Tettey, sat behind Jonny Howson and Leroy Fer, that underpinned two hugely encouraging league displays against Stoke and Chelsea.

Hughton’s philosophy places the onus on the creative midfielder to make the difference. The sight of Hazard and Willian in full flow at Carrow Road last weekend served as painful affirmation.

There is no doubting van Wolfswinkel’s commitment to his new employers. The striker’s work ethic has been prodigious, but the Dutchman’s summer recruitment was designed to address the scoring deficit in the opposition penalty box. Equally, there are no visible signs his record price tag is beginning to weigh heavily on his shoulders, but the careers of both the 24-year-old and new team-mate Hooper will always be defined in goals. Hughton is convinced it is only a matter of time before they prove their worth. Yet, he will know that is a precious commodity in the Premier League.


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