A lot has happened since I last put finger to keyboard and produced a MFW opinion piece, and I’m pretty excited about what’s going on.
The Webberlution is in full swing, we’re signing players in positions we actually need, we’ve shipped out some of the old guard and seem to be replacing them with younger players with a point to prove. While it’s no guarantee of success, it does feel like a breath of fresh air.
It’s great to see the club have a clearly defined direction, philosophy and identity; something that had been lacking since Paul Lambert’s reign.
Daniel Farke, it seems, is pushing the guys in training to levels that most have not have seen – unless they’d played in Europe – and that’s all about the style of play we’ll see at Carrow Road this season.
It’s looking like we’ll see Farke’s favoured 4-1-4-1 as a starting point with a deep lying playmaker/protector. It’s a system that will call for our players to work hard, pressing high up the pitch to win the ball back and then work equally hard while in possession to allow the man on the ball options to keep it.
It’s a system that can fluidly switch to a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 when attacking; the latter with the deep lying defensive midfielder dropping back and the fullbacks pushing on. It’s a system and philosophy that fills me with excitement and hope as it combines so much of what I love about watching football.
It’s a system that allows players who previously would have been considered number 10s or attacking midfielders to play as central midfielders – and that’s a good thing as we have a lot of them!
That being said, I still think we all need a healthy dose of realism. Such change is difficult to push through and there will be bumps along the way, I’ve no doubt the crowd will be screaming for our defenders to lump the ball forward when under pressure but I, for one, am glad they won’t be.
Having possession of the ball is a good thing, so my plea to the crowd is be patient, stick with it. It will reap benefits.
With that in mind, my expectations for the season really reflect the transitional state we find ourselves in. I’m expecting a top ten finish, but I have no idea where in that top ten we’ll be.
I’m hopeful of the play-offs, but not expectant. If at the end of the season we’ve seen a real positive transition and signs that it can continue to improve then I’ll be pretty happy but I fear however that may leave me in the minority.
Obviously, I want to go up, but I’m under no illusions just what a huge task that is. Again fellow fans, please be patient, it may take three or four windows for this to really kick in, for us to get the kind of technical players required and for those currently here to adapt.
In terms of player movements thus far, the players released I felt were all justified; John Ruddy the most difficult, but understandable. But I’d still like to see Matt Jarvis and Michael McGovern find pastures new.
Graham Dorrans and Jonny Howson both were at an age where they wanted to go home and be closer to family, which I understand, and they will be missed. Given that both are technically gifted players they could have fitted in fit well with Farke’s philosophy, but good luck to both.
It’s a shame however that Howson went to another Championship club, but without other offers there’s not much the club could do. It feels like it’s best for both club and player in both instances, which is unusual.
I think Carlton Morris’s loan makes sense; realistically he still had at least Nelson Oliveira, Cameron Jerome & Marley Watkins ahead of him for that one striker role, arguably Steven Naismith too. There are also question marks on whether he’s technically adept enough although I’m not sure we’ve seen enough of him to know.
So good luck to him, but unless he tears up League One and shows real technical ability I’m not sure we’ll see him progress to the first-team.
Of the incoming I’m really excited by the loans of Angus Gunn and Harrison Reed, both young players ready to prove themselves – all a far cry from the type of loans in the Roeder era, for example.
And I’ll be seriously annoyed if we’re not singing, Angus Gunn, Angus Gunn, Angus, Angus Gunn, he’s still got hair, but we don’t care, Angus, Angus Gunn, after he’s run and done the crossbar head but thing!
Watkins again looks like a guy with a point to prove and is a direct, hard-working player. I’m looking forward to watching him. And Christoph Zimmermann is a unit, but seems technically adept too. It’s a big step up for him, but again, young with a point to prove.
Mario Vrancic looks a real technical player and a dead-ball specialist; I’m looking forward to corners not hitting the first man or sailing harmlessly long. And James Husband, again is a player with a point to prove and seems to fit the bill of a quick, direct, attacking full-back.
It’s great to see us signing players in the right position with a definite profile in place.
So… what else do we need? Well let’s look at the squad from the point of view of the preferred formation; I always like to feel we have at least two options for each position.
Angus Gunn, Remi Matthews, Paul Jones, in that order feels good to me, presuming Michael McGovern moves on and I think he needs to!
Ivo Pinto is first choice, but currently injured so we may see Russell Martin coming into that role, I see him more in the centre-back pool however, so we do feel short in this area. I wonder id Yanic Wildschutt may be given a try there thus giving him a stay of execution, or maybe Jacob Murphy as he did for the U21s at times, Personally I’d much rather see him at the other end of the pitch. So we may need an incoming option here.
I’m aware I’m probably in the minority, but I think Martin is a better centre-back than he is a right-back. He’s good on the ball too, which will be crucial in Farke’s team, and I’m glad he’s signed a new contract and the continuity it will provide.
Then we have Timm Klose. Let’s be honest, he owes us a good season, and we have Zimmermann also in that pool. We also have Ben Godfrey coming through, but for me we could do with one more incoming option here.
We now have Husband, who I feel positive about ,with Jamal Lewis seemingly edging ahead of Harry Toffolo as back-up. I think that just about works.
I’m expecting Harrison Reed to be a big player for us this season and to be first choice due to his technical ability. Alex Tettey, I suspect, will be back-up option here for tougher away games. Ben Godfrey again is a back-up option. Feels good to me.
I’m expecting some of the attacking midfirlders to be played as central midfielders this season. It looks like Vrancic will be first choice so it will be a between James Maddison, Alex Pritchard & Wes Hoolahan to join him. Personally I’d favour Maddison. Obviously one of the defensive options could play further forward; that being said, I think I’d like one more all-rounder added to the squad, mainly due to the gut-wrenching injury to Louis Thompson, I wish him a speedy recovery.
I’m expecting this to be a battle between Naismith, Pritchard, Wes Hoolahan, Watkins and one Josh Murphy (assuming Jacob is granted his wish to depart). I’m expecting Naismith and Pritchard to get the nod. With Jarvis and Wildschutt still with us but listed, it feels we have more than enough options here and there’ll not be too many other Championship teams that can boast as many decent options.
Nelson Oliveira will be first choice due to technical ability; I’d expect Cameron Jerome to be back up and Watkins to be in the mix too. Naismith can play there too if needed. I wouldn’t expect any more incoming unless one of those mentioned moves on.
So in summary, I’m pretty pleased with the squad, but would like to see another right-back, centre-back and central-midfielder come in.
As for player transfer rumours, I’d like us to keep both Jacob Murphy and Nelson Oliviera, but would understand given the lure of the Premier League for the former if he left.
Every player here has their price and that’s always been the case. However, unlike in many seasons in the past I feel like we are in a good position to react to any outgoing player and would replace wisely.
I’m cautiously optimistic for the season. Let’s get behind the new regime and players and enjoy the season. Lastly, I’d like to give some credit to the board for the changes made; I think they were the right calls and hope that’s proven on the pitch over the coming months.