2020-21 will be better. If for no other reason than it isn’t 2019-20.
We’ve had a season of brutal kickings and now that we’ve had a chance to lick our wounds, we have to roll up out of the dirt, dust ourselves off, and come up swinging.
Easier said than done after ten dismal defeats in a row.
But with only a month until “Operation Restart Part 2 – This Time It’s Possible”, we still have very little idea what the City team will look like.
Despite a flurry of early signings, every morning brings with it a fresh transfer rumour for one of our brightest and best. If any of them go for the right price, our transfer kitty will be significantly enhanced and our options widened to replace them or improve the squad in general.
The changing parameters of the transfer window this season, and the need to have a squad large enough to populate an expanded subs bench will also alter the dynamics of squad-building, as will the need for City to return to fulfilling a home-grown quota on match-days.
With all this change, you’d have to be an absolute moron at this stage to attempt a bit of crystal-ball gazing and try and guess what’s going to happen at the club in the next few weeks.
Hold my beer.
I’m going to follow the advice of Alan Hansen and “play the percentages” as to the most likely outcome for how the squad will look by the time the window closes.
If nothing else you can laugh at me later.
Firstly, with Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke returning, I don’t expect any major changes to the system. A method of playing that destroyed this league two years ago does not need overhauling even if the personnel require refreshing. And this vastly abbreviated pre-season is not consistent with trying to successfully embed something tactically different either. So I’d expect the traditional 4-2-3-1 base formation and that’s how I’ll consider the squad set-up.
- Tim Krul
- New Keeper
- Michael McGovern
- Aston Oxborough
Krul as number one is a no-brainer. McGovern has been comfortable as a number two but having played third-fiddle behind Krul and Fahrmann last season, it would be no shock if he did the same again with only a year of his contract left.
Krul himself admitted having a good back up to challenge him pushed him on so expect a decent keeper to come in. Given the home-grown rule I would anticipate them being English too. Whilst Oxborough is the future I would guess we’ll be looking at getting him games out on loan rather than bench-sitting at this stage of his career.
- Max Aarons
- Sam Byram
- Bali Mumba
- Jordan Thomas
I just get the impression that there’s less of a market for Aarons than we think and he may be the last one standing when some of the others finish their game of transfer musical chairs.
Byram is the obvious replacement if he were to go, and Mumba has been brought in to develop as his back up (clearly thinking Aarons will depart), but Norwich being Norwich it wouldn’t shock me if Dame Fortune gave us a cheeky smile and left us overloaded in one area and bereft in another (when we inevitably get a season-long injury in that position the day after the window closes).
Webber’s flight-path for young players would suggest a loan move would be in the offing for Thomas.
- Jamal Lewis
- Sam McCallum
- Caleb Richards
- Rob Nizet
As shocking as it may be to Liverpool fans, I don’t think it’s likely that Jamal Lewis will spontaneously combust at the sheer unjustness of us turning down their offer of half a Curly-Wurly and a packet of Love Hearts.
As with Aarons, despite having already brought in a replacement, it would be peak Norwich City if Lewis then remained unexpectedly, and I can genuinely see it happening. Philip Heise will no doubt be off to pastures new. Caleb Richards would surely go out on loan again if Lewis did remain, which might see Rob Nizet promoted to back-up in case of injury to either Lewis or McCallum.
- New centre-back
- Christoph Zimmermann
- Grant Hanley
- Timm Klose
- New centre-back
- Akin Famewo
- Andrew Omobamidele
I think Godfrey will be off unfortunately. The age, size and strength are too tempting, alongside a mature attitude and two seasons of first-team football at a high level. Plus he’s got Rio Ferdinand flaunting him like a pimp’s favourite girl at a prize fight. We will bring in a replacement, whether it be Ben Gibson or someone else on the more expensive side as a sign of our intent.
I expect Zimmermann to put last season behind him and return to his dominant, unbreakable self, and with Klose and Hanley providing back up when fit, we should have enough to hold most Championship sides at bay. However, with health an ongoing concern after last season, if Godfrey goes I’d fully expect Webber to invest in another young, pacy centre-back. Either he or Famewo may then be loaned out for experience depending on the fitness of others.
If there’s a likely promotion from the academy it could come from the impressive Omobamidele.
- Jacob Sorensen
- Kenny McLean
- New midfielder
- Alex Tettey
- Mario Vrancic
- Lukas Rupp
- Melvin Sitti
- Saul Milovanovic
While I’m still anticipating Mo Leitner and Tom Trybull will depart to pastures new, there is always the possibility that their Norwich contracts will be difficult for them to leave behind and they may still be knocking around Colney. Either way I don’t expect them to be in first-team consideration.
Where Sorensen plays is a question we might not get an answer to until the season starts, be it as Tettey’s replacement or partner. I’m thinking the former right now, but I might be wrong. Farke seems to have a lot of patience and belief in Kenny McLean and as such I think it’s most likely he’ll start with Sorensen and that Tettey, Vrancic and Rupp will be back-ups.
However, it wouldn’t be Norwich City if we didn’t bung another midfielder in just for good measure, and I’d expect us to try and get someone young, strong and powerful who can hit the ground running and look to break into the team.
I expect Sitti to get used to Colney for a few weeks before departing on loan to get games elsewhere. I also expect Louis Thompson’s injury-hit time at Carrow Road to come to an end and for him to depart on a nominal fee in order for him to try and restart his career elsewhere.
If you’re looking for a youngster to come through, Saul Milovanovic would be the obvious one in this area, and has already proved himself at under-23 level on a regular basis.
- Kieran Dowell
- Marco Stiepermann
- New midfielder
The Achilles Heel of our team last season. Webber has already addressed it with the acquisition of Dowell. Stiepermann looks likely to remain as an alternative and if he can dominate the division as he did two years ago we’ll be well covered. However, given how many issues we had there last season, it wouldn’t wholly surprise me if we didn’t have a punt on a young player to come in as an extra option, albeit that may depend on whether other potential options, such as Buendia and Cantwell, remain.
- Todd Cantwell
- Onel Hernandez
- Przemyslaw Placheta
- Danel Sinani
- Josh Martin
- Matthew Dennis
- Aidan Fitzpatrick
Even as I type this I feel I should be sipping a large glass of gin, whilst half-singing and half-sobbing “Please don’t take… sniff… my Emi… gasp… away…”.
He’s far too good for this league unfortunately. Every scouting metric going picks him out as one of the most consistent creators of chances in the top leagues of Europe, despite the team around him playing like cat sick for most of the season. Scouting departments pay a huge amount of attention to these stats and the subsequent analysis. If we keep him I’ll happily run down Carrow Road naked, but, as much as this will disappoint you, I think Little Andy will be remaining under wraps.
Cantwell, I think, will go the other way. Much as his goals have given him air time and made him the darling of every lazy co-commentator, his overall level of performance has been sporadic and his analytics won’t stack up as well as Buendia’s. While home-grown will tick a few Premier League boxes, they also know he’ll cost. I suspect we won’t get an offer attractive enough to let him leave.
I think with Cantwell, Sinani, Placheta and Hernandez we have more than enough wide options, to the point where I expect Josh Martin to get loaned out for some first team experience. Matthew Dennis, as a natural right footer may be someone that could sneak into contention too, as could Aidan Fitzpatrick, although he may also find himself adding some more minutes elsewhere on loan.
- Teemu Pukki
- New striker
- Adam Idah
- Josip Drmic
- Shae Hutchinson
Teemu will rightly get first shot at redemption for his poor 2020 form thus far and the hope is of course that a return to the Championship can reignite him. While Idah will undoubtedly get some game time, I would also expect a new striker to come in to add competition in an area that looked very stale after the COVID break (preferably one that has a bit of size and presence up front). Obviously Sinani may also prove to be an option here
While Drmic looks to want out and Webber seems in no mood to keep the door closed on his departure, I have a feeling that finding someone to take Drmic on may prove to be one of the trickier tasks of Webber’s career, particularly based on the last nine or ten games of evidence that clubs have to look at. I have a feeling he’ll be helping the under-23’s out for a few months at least.
And last but not least, I’d love Shae Hutchinson to make a breakthrough this season. Not only because he’s one of our own, but because if he did he’d be fit and healthy. He certainly has the talent when he is.
Anyway, that’s my guess as to how the squad will shape up by the time the window closes. Let’s hope they’re enough.
What do you think?
Herr Cutz says
Andy, I like your logic. Me I’m just confused. I thought we had a good manager who inspired his players, now I’m not so sure, I thought we had a superb striker, now I’m not so sure, I thought Krul would be the week link, but quite rightly he’s player of the year. Last season taught me one thing, after following City for many years I know nothing. My mum, God bless her, was a City supporter and said,”son if you’re going to follow City you can be sure of one thing, in the end they’ll disappoint you.” So as ever I’ll hope for the best, but I’m not so sure.
Chris S says
Pretty comprehensive assessment there, Andy, with entirely reasonable conclusions. You’re likely to be mostly right, but how right we’re yet to find out.
My most niggly quibble with the squad (and has been for some time) is what is the point of Michael McGovern? I should explain, I like MM, he’s a fine chap and I have no beef with him as a person or as a goalkeeper. It’s just from a squad finance point of view he seems a bit of a waste. He’s an international goalkeeper so must be of competent standard, he’s presumably on half-decent wages but for the one game a season he plays in the first round of the League Cup I find it hard to see the value. Keepers rarely get injured and if they do there is a number two to take his place. Surely if the number two got injured in a one season in a million scenario and there wasn’t a number three then an emergency loan would suffice. As it stands McGovern at number three is just an expensive squad ornament. I wish him all the best, I just feel a bit sorry for him.
So glad it is not just me Chris, unless you are competing in Europe and the domestic cups I cannot fathom the logic behind a full-time 3rd senior keeper. MM is an ideal experienced number 2, must we have a third?
martin penney says
I’d agree with both of you on that one, certainly in that M McG is an adequate no2 at Championship level. Depends if they choose to give Oxborough or even Archie Mair the no3 spot I guess. If so it would certainly save a few bob.
Hasn’t Archie Mair gone on loan to Kings Lynn
And yet, last season we had our first and second choice GKs injured at the same time.
MM played the 70 mins Farhman couldn’t, I think he could have managed the first 20!
Not really the point! That being that if we had only two GKs we would have had no one to for a couple of games.
And if we had only 2 GKs we would have had no one to play GK!
Chris S says
Agreed, MGW, it certainly can happen. Out of interest, last season’s goalkeeping appearances (including cups) were as follows: Krul started 38 games, Farhmann started 3, and McGovern started 2 (plus 1 substitute appearance).
Martin MacBlain says
Great article, Andy. An good thorough dissection of the squad and I find it hard to disagree with anything, other than perhaps I dont think Todd will still be here.
If I keep saying it often enough it might happen, but I’d love to see Rhodes in your ‘new striker’ slot.
(Prays silently to the football/Webber gods).
excellent breakdown . I’ll copy and see how close you get. haha. a good read and see the sense you are going with. Some names I do not know but will be googling them up.
martin penney says
Great stuff Andy.
I tend to agree with Martin [above] when he says Todd might not still be here.
You could be right about Max – I find that a hard one to call. And I definitely agree with you about Ben and Emi.
A very good scene-setter.
John T says
A very thorough and (I think) accurate analysis of what we’ve got and what we need, Andy, and a great read. I’m still not sure where we are financially, though. Given that the authorities go into full Corporal Jones panic mode whenever a few positive virus tests turn up, I can’t see the fans being allowed into grounds any time soon. That has major implications for all football clubs, especially those outside the top tier. In these conditions there won’t be many clubs willing to spend £15 million plus on Buendia or Godfrey, however good we think they are. Filling the gaps you identified will cost what? £10 million? If NCFC then finds itself having to repay most of the season ticket money, what happens? A fire sale?
Great article and comments.
Cantwell is being touted with a move to Villa as Grealish replacement a sideways shift in my opinion but Villa will again be throwing money at it again to stay up.
As with Martin I would like to see Rhodes make a come back at city or even a return for Chris Martin they both know this league.
As for Aaron just maybe Jose has upset his apple cart a little by saying he is to small to be a RB in the premiership and others have taken notice.
Drmic must be sulking in his Swiss recording studio or choking on his Alpen he wants out after having to taken a relegation and paycut and moaning about not getting time to prove himself he seems to have forgotten he was injured for a lot of the season so either shot up and dig in or be a man and ask for a transfer “oh I forgot no loyalty bonus if you ask to leave”.
Pukki will knuckle down and prove he is our main threat again.
Big CB we all agree with that and I will put a Spurs player that knows this league Cameron Vickers Carter surplus to Jose and touted at £1.8m and played on loan for Swansea, Luton, Stoke total games 150 in championship
Onwards and upwards
Stay safe and stay healthy
martin penney says
I like the sound of Vickers-Carter too [especially at that valuation] but to my mind Ben Gibson should be the number one priority for us just now.
Never known a transfer window quite like this one!
Well we are now being linked again with Man the Romanian but they say no sale if the qualify for European football so has there owner dropped his valuation only time and Webber will tell
Old Yeller says
Great article, Andy and very well thought out and researched – it saves the rest of us having to do it! Two things though: Emi has mood swings which may detract suitors in the final analysis; and Todd’s ‘sporadic’ form is an unjustified assessment in my opinion. Personally, I would rather sell Emi and keep Todd if one has to go. And not just to keep Little Andy under wraps………………….!!
My biggest fear for next season is that we’re basing our optimism on what happened last time we were ‘down in the Chump’. We licked it then because of home grown youthful enthusiasm and some of our incomers (Pukki, Leitner, Trybull, etc) simultaneously hitting purple patches at the right time. A year of getting our bottoms well and truly spanked in the EPL will not have been good preparation for an undoubtedly very tough league bristling with talent.
I totally agree. The loss of Emi would be a huge loss. He has outstanding skill levels, that make him such a joy to watch. Like Madders . They both at their best are worth the tickets price. Can’t see that in any other players here for years.
One comment above on Rhodes or Chris Martin returning makes no sense to me.
No good turning the clock back, they are yesterday’s men. Build for the future is are only option.
I totally agree.
We really must let this Rhodes thing go.
Stephen Godbold says
I’m as unsure as everyone else about who will leave but we currently have something like 36 first team players, so some of them have to go!
For what it’s worth I think Godfrey and Buendia will go. Famewo will step up and Gibson would be a good addition. I don’t think any of the others will get offers above £20m so will presumably stay, meaning the likes of Thomas, Martin, Dennis, Gilmore etc all out on loan in League 1, Scotland or Holland.
The continuing pursuit of Man would indicate we want at least one more wide player. I’d also like another to compete with Dowell and Stiepermann although that might be Sinani.
Up front, the disrespect for Drmic is completely unwarranted. This guy has 37 caps for Switzerland and is still very well thought of both there and in Germany. Just as Cantwell was hammered last year for not being Buendia, Drmic has been hammered this year for not being Pukki. He will get his move.
I can still see Rhodes arriving on a free, but perhaps also another striker who is a bit more physical – hopefully a more effective version of Srbeny.
Hugh Stacey says
Really good piece Andy. Just for a bit of fun, who would you pick for the vacant places in the squad if the bulk of our stars should leave for pastures new?
To kick things off:-
Aynsley Pears (Middlesbro’)
Bali Mumba (u21)
Jordan Thomas (u21)
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham)
Sam McCallum (u21)
Ben Gibson (also centre back) (Burnley)
Matty Cash (Nottm. For.)
Melvin Sitti (u21)
Josh Cullen (West Ham)
Josh Martin (u21)
Cauley Woodrow (Barnsley)
Adam Armstrong (Blackburn)
Ivan Toney (Peterborough)
Other centre back names in the hat – Rob Dickie (Oxford Utd) Alfie Mawson (Fulham) and Jack Tucker (Gillingham)
Well if we can get fifteen million for emi then snap there hands off good riddance
Colin B says
Great analysis of the squad. If Webber goes you may be the man.
Given the Covid crisis the transfer market will be depressed for both incoming players as well those who may leave. I too see Buendia and Godfrey leaving but not more than £17million each plus add ons. Whilst I understand the logic of Trybull and Leitner going. I think Trybull could still do a job in the CHampionship.
Drmic needs to go.
I am ambivalent about Pukki. His highest transfer price would have been last January after having a decent first half to the Premier League season. It will have dropped quite a lot. I can only see his value going one way, down. So do we cash in if we get a half decent bid.
Given the rumours then Cantwell is being touted around. He has talent, scored goals but didn’t create too much. His defensive work needs improving. The biggest down side for me is he nearly always got subbed after about 70 mins. So is his stamina not up to scratch.
Stay safe one and all.