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?