DO NORWICH HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO FINALLY SURVIVE THE PREMIER LEAGUE?
There was a widespread ring of deja vu this weekend when results elsewhere guaranteed Norwich a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, having marked their top flight renaissance with relegation the previous campaign.
For what seems an eternity, the Canaries have been synonymous with inadequacy, so often waltzing in the Championship before stumbling straight back down in an instant.
It is hard to argue with the sentiment that they are the proverbial yo-yo club; after all, since the turn of the century, the Carrow Road rollercoaster has been in full throttle, overseeing six promotions and five relegations.
This has seen them venture from the depths of League One (winning promotion in 2009/10) to the top flight, but again, since the turn of the century, they have not lasted more than two seasons in the top flight before succumbing to relegation.
Indeed, many supporters are feeling the aura of retrospection, although perhaps there is a glimmer that Norwich could fare better than prior times when they retake to Premier League pitches.
With their monotonous fluctuations, it may not appear that an invaluable philosophy and direction is ingrained in the fabric of the club, though that is far from the case as since 2017, Norwich have recouped a mouth-watering £79.5M player sales, proving that a substantial profit model is implemented.
Some of these players have been scoped and nurtured after signing from elsewhere (see James Maddison and Ben Godfrey), whereas others are products of the highly-regarded academy system such as Jamal Lewis and the Murphy (Josh and Jacob) twins.
All in all, irrespective of their backgrounds, it constructs a healthy blueprint that will stand the club in good stead regardless of their domestic status. Not only does it generate vital funds for the club from a financial perspective but many of these players turn out to orchestrate an integral impact on the field as well as off it.
Two notable cogs in the machine this term have been academy graduates Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons, with the latter managing to start every single fixture to date from the right back berth. In addition, a handful of prospects still learning their trade have featured a number of times, ranging from Andrew Omobamidele to Josh Martin, both of whom are expected to blossom into key figures at the club in years to come.
But, whilst trusting in the internal youth is a modus operandi carried by teams all over the country, Norwich have recently adopted a idiosyncratic mechanism that specialises in player development.
That is, if you are not aware, the Soccerbot 360. The contrivance is largely unknown on British shores and, for the time being, is the only one of its kind in England- but that likely will not be the case for long if it can have the effect that enticed the Canaries into paying £750,000 for it ahead of the 2021/22 campaign.
In a totally unique way, it allows players to control a ball on a small turf pitch surrounded by video walls which showcase scenarios that they will encounter in games. The Soccerbot360, which has been implemented at RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg, orientates around cognitive performance and builds on decision making, awareness and anticipation which could well bode well with the Canaries’ intuition for progression.
Though whilst that should lead to more prosperity, what shoulders no doubt is the halo of quality that rests upon certain members of Daniel Farke’s squad.
As they clamber back to life at the highest level, one such player within their ranks quite frankly belongs there- and, if you have watched Norwich City at all over the last three seasons, the identity of that particular individual is no mystery.
It is, of course, Emi Buendia, the architectural Argentine who harbours that rare x-factor in his craft to elevate audiences in the blink of an eye. Buendia had already bookmarked his threat during Norwich’s stint in the Premier League last year and now looks even more refined coming off the back of 13 goals and 15 assists (as of present).
Even though they have just achieved promotion, keeping the wing wizard in East Anglia beyond the summer will be a treacherous task as a catalogue of behemoths will be circling.
Arsenal had emerged as keen admirers of Buendia back in January and, as a matter of fact, many were left bewildered when he, along with Aarons, Cantwell and Teemu Pukki all stayed put in Norfolk following relegation, but by holding onto their prized talent, the foundations for further success are being paved.
Should they wish to finally establish themselves above the Championship, then the aforementioned quartet will be central to any such ambitions. Though, what presents a much broader significance is where they invest on the transfer front and you do feel that it is a necessity in some positions.
Last time out, the likes of Buendia, Cantwell and Pukki thrived, however, the root of Norwich’s downfall was widely believed to be down to defensive shortcomings. To be fair, the backline has stood for solidity this term, but the Premier League is a different kettle of fish and as a result, you do feel that this is one area that Farke will be looking to bolster.
Norwich’s activity in the market will also be handed a spinball from the new Brexit rules, which complicate recruitment from overseas. Players being signed from European clubs- a common procedure for the club- must now be granted a GBE (Governing Body Endorsement) by passing a points-based system centred around international caps, club appearances and the quality of the selling club.
It is one of many hurdles that the Canaries will need to overcome in the summer. It provides a challenge for any club, but for Norwich, that is more prevalent than most given their tendencies to snap up talent from overseas. As you can gather, survival will not be easily attainable, yet it definitely is possible.
Norwich have sketched a genuine direction and, unlike a lot of clubs, they know how to put it into action. They play a swashbuckling, engaging brand of football when, at its optimum, can propose real trouble even against the most esteemed outfits as we observed last season, which saw them defeat the likes of Manchester City, Everton and Leicester.
Their style could go on to allure a wider range of talent to the club- and, with the eye for development and recruitment more open than the majority, Carrow Road is a thoroughly exciting avenue.
Whilst Norwich’s imperative action in the upcoming window remains to be seen, they undoubtedly have the right ideas in place. That said, with a bit of reshuffling to the playing squad, there is no reason why their survival hopes can not stand a very good chance.