A Champions League final in August? That’s just weird.
City playing pre-season games? Well, not so much.
A month later than usual, it’s true. And without fans, even the diehards who turn out for such fixtures.
Even so, much of it has a distinctively familiar feel. New players, new kit, substitutions and goals galore, very little to read into results (which doesn’t stop us, of course) – and the sense of a real season on the way.
One thing I won’t be able to do this time, for better or worse. The past two summers I’ve reported for this site on City’s pre-season game at my nearby club Luton.
Looking back, it’s fair to say my reports were a mix of the perceptive and not-so-perceptive.
Two years ago I singled out the (at that time) unknowns Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell. Any reputation I earned for that was probably blown last year, though, when I pronounced Patrick Roberts a key part of our season ahead.
On the basis of even less evidence than usual, then, let’s take a quick view of City’s revamped squad. With a word of preface: a re-vamp was probably essential. Every squad has its natural life, and the disheartening effects of last season had to be shaken off.
Importantly, as I write we don’t know who will be leaving. It’s a fair assumption that a couple of our high-value assets will be going to pastures new, as well as some of the other squad members we want to move on.
In terms of the Big Five – Aarons, Godfrey, Lewis, Cantwell, Buendia – I’m guessing we’ll lose two or three. There are arguments for all staying at Carrow Road to progress their development, but the lure of bigger clubs and pay packets is powerful.
I’ll wish any of them well, and hope they make the right choices.
Meanwhile, we have an exciting new group taking shape.
In midfield there’s some serious rejuvenation going on. Notwithstanding my erroneous call on Patrick Roberts, I envisage Kieran Dowell and Oliver Skipp seeing a lot of action for us in the Championship. I rate both as young players with a positive mindset, who’ll make things happen.
Placheta could be hit or miss, but he clearly has talent. Let’s hope his presence also reinforces the determination of Onel Hernandez to shine.
I suspect I’m not alone in hoping we secure an experienced central defender, as Webber and Farke are obviously trying to do. Having Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley available will feel like two new signings – but it was one of last year’s most painful lessons that you need strength in depth at that position.
Knowing Norwich’s luck, we’ll end up with five strong central defenders and none will ever get injured. The risk can’t be taken, though: it would be a stretch to expect us to score 90+ goals again, as we did two years ago.
Speaking of goals, our most intriguing new acquisition is surely Jordan Hugill. On the face of it, a most un-Farke-like signing: a big striker with, even in his own words, a traditional physical approach.
Yet it shouldn’t surprise us. Both Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke made clear they were seeking to sign more than the usual raft of young, skilful talent. They were also looking to add experience and physicality, and players who’d give us extra options of how to approach games.
As well as the experience and track record, something else caught my eye that I’m sure appealed to Farke. A former team-mate extols Hugill’s attitude and describes him as “desperate to learn and improve”.
Plenty of fresh options for Farke to consider, then, as his mind turns to Huddersfield on 12 September. (I’m ignoring the Carabao Cup game at Luton a week before, which I don’t think we’d be too unhappy to lose.)
We’d all love City to get off to a roaring start, even if there’s no-one there to roar.
It won’t automatically happen, though, and my final word would be a plea. Let’s hold our nerve if the start isn’t what we want.
Two of City’s second-tier seasons will always stick in my mind for the way they unfolded. In each case we lost three of the first five league games, winning only one.
Those seasons were 1985-86 and 2018-19. In each case, we ended up winning the league.
OTBC, and keep the faith.