If City do reach the ‘promised land’, how do they ensure they are well equipped to survive?
In 2019, Daniel Farke’s City secured promotion to the Premier League playing a brand of football that was foreign to many in Norfolk.
Expansive, attractive and progressive were the buzzwords used to describe Farkeball at that moment in time. By the end of the campaign, naivety, frailty and hopeless were far more prominent.
During the off-season, City recruited adequately. Improving wasn’t the aim – depth was.
Finding a deadlier finisher, or more prevalent creator was a task that went beyond the financial capabilities the Canaries had at the time. City needed to supplement, not enhance.
But these additions didn’t adapt. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing and we can all mock the decision, but nobody laughed at Ralf Fahrmann, Sam Byram, Ibrahim Amadou, Patrick Roberts, and Josip Drmic’s arrivals at the time. All five had immense European and domestic pedigree and carried revered reputations.
Maybe that was the issue right there. Reputation. Stuart Webber’s recruitment nous was built on avoiding that criteria.
City’s season was then further derailed by injuries and COVID-19. A record ten straight defeats was the inevitable conclusion.
So, if City are to gain promotion yet again, how do they Premier League-proof themselves to ensure that they put up more of a fight next time around? Premature, maybe, but it’s the question that’s been on my mind ever since the humiliating 4-0 defeat at home to West Ham that confirmed our relegation.
The January transfer window has opened, and the Canaries appear to have two main objectives – recruit a left-back and goalkeeper while retaining the services of Emi Buendia and Max Aarons. Easy, right?
I’m presuming that Norwich achieve this, but don’t be too downbeat if a suitable bid is submitted which results in either two of our most prized assets departing. Under Webber, when have City ever descended while selling a high-profile player? A departure will be on our terms and will be in the best interests of the club.
Here are three ways in which Norwich can Premier-League proof themselves should they achieve promotion this season:
If I’m being truthful, I’d want two central defenders in to feel entirely comfortable going into another Premier League campaign.
While Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley have formed a partnership that allows both to supplement each other’s weaknesses, Christoph Zimmermann’s performances this season haven’t been up to scratch.
And with the aforementioned pair both having their injury struggles, an additional centre-back (or two) in the mould of Gibson would provide more assurance to a sometimes-anxious backline.
This is easier said than done, of course. High-performing central-defenders come at a premium in the Premier League due to the dearth of options available, hence why Leeds United submitted bids as high as £30m for Ben White after a solitary season in the Championship.
- More from the 10
Quite simply, Norwich need more end product from the number 10 position.
Since Marco Stiepermann’s outstanding 2018/19 campaign, no player has made a serious claim to make that position theirs.
There is a lot of hope on Kieran Dowell, a player who arrived with so much optimism and fanfare, to have his season halted by injuries.
The second half of this campaign will be pivotal in understanding whether City can rely on Dowell long-term.
A player with so much promise in his youth career has shown glimpses at this level of the potential he possesses but is yet to go beyond that.
Mario Vrancic has been a valuable member of Farke’s squad this season.
His technical capabilities late on in games when there is more space to be found can be crucial in unlocking defences, but the Bosnian lacks the physicality and juvenility to be considered a serious long-term option in that role.
Both Todd Cantwell and Buendia appear to have suitable skillsets to fufill the requirements of this role, but their move into the middle of the park would leave a gaping hole to be filled out wide.
City will be hoping Dowell can replicate the form he showcased in his most recent loan spell at Wigan, or they might have to dip into the transfer market come the summer.
- The heir to the Pukki throne
Despite not hitting the same levels as his exceptional 2018/19 season, Teemu Pukki is still not only City’s deadliest of marksmen but a crucial component of Farkeball.
His work rate off the ball and linking of play allows him to have an impact in games even when his finishing is not up to its usual high standard..
With summer signing Jordan Hugill summoned for merely cameo appearances (inferring that Farke isn’t all that convinced by Hugill), a loan signing would probably be the most likely of outcomes.
Norwich will be hoping that atleast one of Adam Idah, Tyreese Omotoye or Sebastian Soto will eventually be the heir to Pukki’s throne, but all three would have to have an exceptional second half of the season to be anywhere near considered a serious option in the Premier League.
If you’ve read Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski’s Soccernomics, then you’ll understand just how overpriced centre-forwards are. Sheffield United for example, parted with nearly £50million on Rhian Brewster and Oli McBurnie, to have just one goal between them this season. I can guarantee you Webber will not make the same mistake.
Ultimately, this is hypothetical anyway.
But as we enter a new year, everything is pointing to yet another Premier League promotion here in Norfolk.
Removing the ‘yo-yo club’ tag will be tough, especially for a self-sufficient club.
But there’s nobody I’d trust more than Webber and Farke to do so.
Billy is ½ of NCFC podcast The Revere End. You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook @therevereend and listen to their podcast on Spotify, Apple and Google podcasts.
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