Martin: We lost our identity
Published 10/05/2014 | 14:17
Club captain Russell Martin feels Norwich have "lost their identity" this season, but has vowed to help them find it again in the Sky Bet Championship next season.
The Canaries were all but mathematically relegated following Sunderland's win over West Brom in midweek, which saw the Black Cats complete a remarkable escape from the drop zone and made Norwich's final home game against Arsenal on Sunday irrelevant.
Norwich sacked manager Chris Hughton with just five matches to go, but were already in a negative downward spiral, with the goalless draw at Chelsea under caretaker boss Neil Adams restoring a little pride in halting five successive defeats.
Martin was part of the Canaries side which completed back-to-back promotions from League One under Paul Lambert, and then retained their hard-fought Premier League status before the manager left for Aston Villa in June 2012.
The Scotland defender, signed from Peterborough, feels perhaps some of the players - several having arrived for big money this summer like club-record signing Rickie van Wolfswinkel, who managed only one goal - forgot the very things which had taken the Norfolk club so far.
"As a club you try to improve and evolve, but I feel maybe we tried to do that a bit too quickly this season," the 28-year-old said.
"With the players we signed and those we already had, we should not have been in this position, but for too long we were an in-between team and lost a bit of our identity, and we need to get that back.
"Some of the results away from home you can't accept it, but maybe there was too much acceptance and we were too nice with each other at times, that needs to change for next year.
"It is collective, for two years no-one liked playing against Norwich, because they knew they were in for a game, this season at times it has been too easy to play against us.
"Maybe complacency set in. All the time the feeling was 'we will be okay', but at some point you have to make sure of that, and we have not done it.
"The choice you have as a player now is simple - you can wallow in self-pity for yourself or you say this has happened, you learn and grow from it and you come back stronger next season."
Midfielder David Fox (knee) is another absentee for the Canaries, who are all but relegated to the Sky Bet Championship, and so youngsters like Josh Murphy could be included.
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintains the gap between his side and the Barclays Premier League champions is "nothing" and can be bridged with hard work rather than just big-money signings.
The Gunners head to Norwich looking to maintain momentum ahead of the FA Cup final against Hull at Wembley, when they will aim to end the club's long trophy drought.
Arsenal led the top flight for 128 days following a fine opening half to the campaign, only to then see their championship challenge fall away in the wake of heavy defeats at rivals Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea as the squad was depleted by injuries to key men.
Nevertheless, for all their shortcomings, Wenger's side could end the season just seven points behind champions-elect City - or even fewer should the most unpredictable of seasons take another dramatic twist on the final day.
It is a margin Wenger believes can be clawed back when the action kicks off again in August.
"You know, seven points is nothing. It is two games," said Wenger, who could have England midfielder Jack Wilshere back from a fractured foot.
"But on the other hand, every team of the top four will be frustrated because you will think, 'Ah, we could have got this point and if we had done it, we would win the league'. If you look at Chelsea or Liverpool, they will say the same.
"We have to continue to develop as a team. We have bridged a big gap (from 2012/13) and we want to be better next season.
"How can we do that? We have hard work in the summer to achieve that."
Wenger added: "My team has shown a remarkable mental stamina and consistency in their attitude and I am very proud of the way they responded.
"We are looking at some aspects where we can improve internally and we will work very hard during the summer to do that."