Norwich relegated to Championship after 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday; results conspired against club with Burnley beating Watford; Villa axed Canaries boss Dean Smith in November last year following five successive defeats
Saturday 30 April 2022 18:34, UK
Norwich manager Dean Smith has vowed his side must now aspire to win the Championship again next season after they were relegated following a 2-0 defeat to his former side Aston Villa.
Following confirmation of relegation at Villa Park, Smith said: "I'm disappointed because it wasn't a performance we should have got relegated on. I thought it was a good performance. We quietened the crowd.
"They probably scored against the run of play - a ball over the top and a slip: Brandon [Williams] slips and Ollie [Watkins] scores. Unfortunately, that's cost us in an awful lot of games this season - little individual mistakes.
"I felt we should have had a penalty just after that and didn't get one, but I don't suppose I'll get a phone call from Mike Riley.
"The Premier League is tough. I was at Aston Villa a couple of years ago and we got promoted and we spent £125m to try and stay in the league. The key to it, for me, is when you play against the teams in and around you, that you feel you are going to be competing with.
"In the big games, against [teams like} Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea, you try and scrap to get something out of those games where you can. We all know there is a gulf in quality between the top three and the rest of the league. Ultimately, we've come up short.
"We've got a great base to go with, good foundations. It's a well-run football club. The last two times we've been in the Championship, we've won it. That's what we have to aspire to again now. "
Villa sacked Smith in November last year after a run of five successive defeats in the Premier League and replaced Daniel Farke as the Canaries' boss one week later, with the club placed rock-bottom in the division.
Smith appeared to trigger a short-lived bounce effect upon taking charge at Carrow Road with a 2-1 win against Southampton in his first game in charge, followed by back-to-back draws with Wolves and Newcastle - but six consecutive defeats followed.
Norwich mustered another flurry of hope in January, beating Everton and fellow relegation battlers Watford, before a 1-1 stalemate with Crystal Palace - but another six defeats on the bounce virtually sealed the club's fate.
The Canaries only lifted out of the drop zone for one matchday throughout the season, following the 3-0 win at Watford in January - a position which was skewed by the fact Smith's side had played two games more than their relegation rivals.
The club's immediate return to England's second tier appears unsurprising, ranking bottom in the division across a raft of stats this term, including goals, shots on target, final-third passes completed, possession won in the middle third and goals conceded.
According to the Sky Sports Power Rankings, which ranks players' form based on 35 matchday statistics according to starting position, centre-back Hanley was their top performer over the season, followed by seasoned striker Pukki, who has netted 10 goals in all competitions.
However, Norwich clocked the fifth-youngest starting XI in the Premier League this season, which suggests Smith's side has room to develop and improve ahead of the challenge for an immediate return to the top-flight next season.