The buzzwords that accompanied last season were ‘transition’ and ‘patience’.
Yet, these need to be exchanged for ‘progression’ and ‘entertainment’, as Norwich supporters demand tangible improvement on what they consumed last season.
With the sale of key protagonists in Josh Murphy and, perhaps more notably, James Maddison, the mood amongst the supporters is unsurprisingly pessimistic. The aforementioned names were City’s main source of offensive productivity and output.
The gaping hole in the finances has been filled with the fee raised by Maddison’s sale, but it has left an arguably bigger one on the pitch. Financially, Norwich now lay in an altogether more comfortable and secure place which will aid the long-term insurance of the football club.
Last season, the offensive movement was too predictable and their play on the ball too lateral.
The impending arrival of Moritz Leitner coupled with the addition of Emi Buendia could look to make that intricate play more decisive and add precision and directness to offensive phases of play.
To find direct replacements for Murphy and Maddison is impossible, certainly in terms of statistics and quality, on the budget Norwich currently has to operate with. That money must be used to sign adaptable, intelligent and versatile footballers who can adopt the system being deployed by Daniel Farke.
The goal scoring burden needs to distributed evenly across the team. In reality, City created the opportunities but lacked the cutting edge to score enough goals but there is an argument that the sale of Maddison will present a freedom and podium for other players to stand up and be counted.
The over-reliance on Maddison was pertinent throughout the entirety of last season, and the extraction of his undeniable quality could create a more cohesive and well-oiled unit. However, if they fail to replace the output provided by Maddison and Murphy, a season of malaise and struggle could be in store.
In late June however, it’s impossible to place a prediction containing any substance surrounding Norwich’s final placement.
The magnitude of the job in hand for Stuart Webber has been well documented. Come August 4, he will have needed to source a genuine, consistent goal threat coupled with a cohesive offensive midfield unit.
Norwich’s game in possession lacked invention and risk for lengthy periods of last season. The three at the back formation resulted in greater cohesiveness due to the options for the player on the ball, preventing lateral football, but encouraging intricacy with the central focus.
Four at back formations tend to operate in straight lines, and this makes transitioning between the phases of the pitch more difficult, hence why City struggled to score goals. Pep Guardiola coaches his players up to the final third, and from there he encourages creativity and spontaneity. There is an argument Norwich too need to let off the leash offensively.
Farke has options mind.
At Carrow Road, where expectation will be placed upon Norwich to make an impact and take the game to opponents, the intricacy and central reliance of a three at the back formation could prove a viable and successful option.
Away from home, where Norwich will need to be pragmatic and will have less of the ball, a more dynamic, simplistic and athletic 4-2-3-1 could be deployed. Norwich’s game is based on space manipulation and angles – combine that with an increased tempo and an injection of invention in the final third, and Norwich will be a more entertaining entity.
There are still a multitude of loose ends that require tying up in the next month, the most documented being the striking situation, but others include the need for wingers, a right-back and all the while ensuring they stay aligned with EFL homegrown rules.
Naturally, among City’s partisan supporter base there are reasons being highlighted that cause for concern but others that install enthusiasm and excitement.
A tangible improvement needs to be evident on the pitch as Farke’s operation enters its second season, or those custodians will find a fair amount of flak arrives at their doorstep, rightly or wrongly. The nature of Norwich’s approach is that unknown names will arrive and calculated risks will be attempted.
It’s that which makes the Jordan Rhodes link unsurprising.
It’s divided the fan base. On one hand, Rhodes is a striker who has scored 9 goals in two seasons but has a one-in-two goalscoring record. At 28, he just about fits into the age profile Norwich explore for potential signings, and Farke and Webber have before gone down the route of reviving the careers of players who have lost their way.
See Leitner, Trybull, Hanley etc.
Rhodes is a poacher. A natural finisher, he’s not a striker built on pace nor his ability to link the play, but he operates between the posts and comes alive in the box. It may not work, but considering Norwich’s current location, he could be the Championship nous many have called for.
So, loose ends, and a lot to solve, but more incomings to whet the appetite alongside the beginning of pre-season. Anyone feeling excited yet?