And finally…. part three of the team’s predictions.
Please feel free to leave your answers to the same questions in the comments.
On the Ball City…
- How will Dean Smith and Shakey manage the Premier League hangover (as Daniel Farke did so brilliantly in the summer of 2020)?
Louis Woodrow: There’s certainly a fair bit of expectation on their shoulders having both managed at a higher level, and some questions remain unanswered in pre-season, but I still have faith that Smith and Shakey can prove themselves at Carrow Road if they are given time.
Jack Lincoln: In both of Daniel Farke’s promotion campaigns his sides were slow starters, with scrappy results often being the catalysts to an upward turn of form. In 2020-21, that result was the 2-1away win at Rotherham United. I feel Smith & Shakey may suffer a similarly slow start, so a key way of managing the Premier League hangover is, eventually, a long sustained run of results to catapult ourselves up the table.
Robin Sainty: While both managers have the problem of the EPL hangover the circumstances are different. A significant injection of new blood helped Farke, while the fact that Cantwell and Buendia were unsettled worked against him. The dressing room seems more settled now but with the new players missing the start of the season, Smith is still working with Farke’s squad, so it’s not going to be easy.
Gary Gowers: Given that our last three Championship campaigns were slow-burners, if S&S can quickly shake off the hangover from hell that’ll be an achievement – not least because those brought in to freshen us up are currently absent. They do however seem to have generated a good spirit in the group, which helps, and the ugliest of wins in Cardiff could just be the footie equivalent of a full English.
Craig Bailey: They need a good start and an early win, not just for this reason, but also to gain some credit with the crowd.
Ed Couzens-Lake: I think they’ll make it simple – a case of telling the players, convincing them, that they are professionals, that its done, dusted and forgotten, and that they and the club is moving on now, promotion remains the objective this season and the long term goal of the club is to establish itself in the PL – so do they, the players, want to be part of that?
Kathy Blake: There were brief glimpses at the beginning of Smith’s reign that he could make things tick but the optimism faded with poor results and performances. We have to remember those were not his players but, having said that, not many of ‘his players’ have arrived in this window. Unless Hayden and Sara are pretty special, I think it may be as you were, which may still work in the Championship.
- What have you made of the ins and out of the summer so far? (clearly, there will be more).
Louis: So far the ins have been positive. I think Hayden will be an excellent addition at this level if he can stay fit, and the prospect of City’s first-ever Brazilian in midfield is exciting despite having not seen much of him. It’s clear the club have dealt with a lot of departures, and I don’t think the losses of players such as Zimmerman or PLM will be massive. Tzolis is an interesting one that I will be keeping my eye on.
Jack: I believe it’s been a smart summer so far in regards to squad alterations, even though there is still work to be done. Key areas have been addressed and once fit, I think both Gabriel Sara and Isaac Hayden will be long-term successes. With regard to ins, I would still like another right back and central midfielder, and it’s looking like a possibility that Ismaela Kone of Montreal could be the one to fill that midfield void.
Robin: I’m excited by both new signings, but worried about the fact Hayden has had a recurrence of a previous injury. I think Sara will adapt well to English conditions and add a new dimension to our midfield. As for outgoings, it made sense to get Tzolis and some of the youngsters regular football, while Lees-Melou to Brest was a no-brainer if his heart wasn’t in a Championship season.
Gary G: Hayden and Sara both look excellent signings on paper; I just hope they also look good on the grass (when they eventually get to play on it). In terms of departures, all look pretty logical – no lost sleep from me – and the loans out for the youngsters make sense.
Craig: Good, people forget most of the squad are good enough for this league, I’d like to see another CM come in and another wide-forward option.
Ed: Clearly the policy is quality over quantity. Hayden is a great signing – his arrival surprised me in the same way our signing of Andrew Surman, Matt Jarvis and Sam Byram did, well-known players who have played regularly in the PL but who might have put off other clubs with their injury records/worries. If Hayden had been 100% fit and had a full season with Newcastle, other clubs might have been in for him.
Kathy: I know very little about Sara and Hayden but Smith obviously rates them. Anyway, what do I know? When Farke arrived and signed a load of players I’d never heard of, after watching the preseason friendly at Kings Lynn, I declared the only one likely to make it was Passlack.
- Does this squad, even without more significant incomings, have enough to repeat the heroics of 2020-21?
Louis: In all honesty, no. This squad (bar a few incomings) is by and large at a similar level to that of last season who failed miserably. Understandably this squad will be more suited to the level of the Championship but recreating the heroics of 2020-21 seems incredibly unlikely to me.
Jack: Absolutely. It’s a squad littered with experience and know-how of how to win the league, blended with a crop of excellent youngsters ready to make to step up, with the likes of Andrew Omobamidele, Jon Rowe, Jonathan Tomkinson and Liam Gibbs all impressing in pre-season. Match all of that with a coach who knows how to get out of the league and it has the makings of a positive season.
Robin: This squad has more than enough to win the league, two quality keepers, good defensive options, strength and athleticism in midfield and a proven goalscorer. However, this is a hugely competitive division, and the stars will still need to align. My concern would be injuries to Pukki, whether we can be creative enough, and, particularly, whether the midfield can chip in with a decent number of goals.
Gary G: From a technical perspective, ours has to be one of the best squads in the division but there’s a fragility about the group that still concerns me. Confidence is everything in football though and a few wins could set the ball rolling again, even though I’m not anticipating too many heroics.
Craig: Not so sure, but it should be top six for sure, anything else is unacceptable. Concerned with 4-3-3 though, mainly as it doesn’t suit Pukki.
Ed: They’re capable of it – my thoughts are that there are a lot more good sides in there alongside us this time around than there were two years ago.
Kathy: I don’t think so. Even if we go up I don’t think it will be quite the same. The football under Farke was simply the best I’ve ever seen at Carrow Rd
- Who, in particular, do you expect to shine this season?
Louis: There are a few I expect to kick on this year and I think we will see an improvement in Milot Rashica. While he was one of the few standouts from last season, he struggled to make the step to the Premier League and will have a much bigger impact in the second tier. A few younger players on their way back from injury may also surprise us – Idah and Andrew Omabamidele are two that stand out.
Jack: Andrew Omobamidele. The Irishman has been given the number 4 shirt and looks set to become a mainstay at centre-half next to either Ben Gibson or Grant Hanley. Consistently described as a ‘Rolls Royce of a defender by fans and reporters, he has the physical and technical credentials to play a vital role this season.
Robin: Todd Cantwell, without question. If his head’s right he’s capable of bossing this league, and the signs are that it is. I also hope that Sara turns out to be as good as many analysts have suggested but clearly, it’s too early to say!
Gary G: I can see Omobamidele having an outstanding season if he can stay fit (he’s highly thought of by S&S) and, if pre-season is anything to go by, the new lad with the long blond hair – Cantwell, I think his name is – could be the creative spark that’s been missing since Buendia headed west.
Craig: Cantwell, and then he’ll leave on a free transfer! I would hope Rashica and Sargent should be much better too!
Ed: Omobamidele is the obvious one – reckon I won’t be the only one who cites him here! Big season for Aarons as well – wonder if he’ll do a Leroy Fer and play in our first match and then be off to the Prem? Hoping Liam Gibbs is a name familiar to more than just NCFC fans by May as well – no reason why not.
Kathy: Tin hat on. Cantwell. I don’t really know what went on, but he would have been in my team. An off-color Cantwell was still better than some of the selections Farke and Smith made. Hopefully, that is behind him now. His name was being touted for £30M before this and I believe this could still happen.
- Where will City finish?
Louis: While I don’t think performances will live up to either 2020-21 or 2018-19, I still think that City will be one of the favourites for promotion this season, and can see a play-off finish for Dean Smith’s men.
Robin: Top six without doubt, but I’m not prepared to be any more specific at this early stage with so many unknowns!
Gary G: Fourth. And then we’ll screw up the play-offs. 😉
Craig: I’m torn between second and fifth!
Ed: Can’t see us standing out this season as we have before, too many good sides in there with us – Middlesbrough for one. So… play-offs.
Kathy: There are some strong teams in the Championship this season, and some of them have spent a great deal of money. While this doesn’t always guarantee success, it will be a factor. Third.