GROUNDHOG DAY: HOW CAN NORWICH CITY END THEIR PREMIER LEAGUE JINX?
When Norwich City won the Championship in the 2018/19 season to earn promotion to the Premier League, many thought that their fluent, attacking style of play would see them in good stead for life in the topflight. However, the season that followed was far from what they would’ve been hoping for. Having reached a mere 21 points and finishing rock bottom, subsequently sending them straight back down.
Despite their woeful 2019/20 campaign they stuck with manager Daniel Farke, as they had faith in his project and that his style of play would see them gain promotion once more. The Canaries were right as the German manager guided his side to a 97-point season last year, bringing them back up to the Premier League.
But the Canaries’ start to this season has been even worse than that of two years ago, despite several of their players as well as their manager having Premier League experience. They sit bottom of the table and are currently winless this season having picked up just two points from eight matches.
So, what is it that’s stopping them being competitive?
It seems the biggest problem for Norwich this season is up front. Farke’s side have scored just two goals so far in the league, both coming from striker Teemu Pukki. The Canaries clearly saw this as a problem area and did bring in attacking reinforcements in the summer. The signings included Greek winger Christos Tzolis from PAOK as well as Werder Bremen forwards Milot Rashica and Josh Sargent. However, the quality of these signings is questionable as the Bremen pair contributed just 10 goals in 63 games last season combined in the German second division.
The problems don’t stop there, Farke’s side have also conceded the joint most in the league this season, 16 in eight games - although a recent change of shape seems to be having a positive effect on their defensive frailties.
They did as well lose a key player in the summer in Emiliano Buendia, which they seem to be sorely missing. As well as having star man Todd Cantwell unavailable over recent weeks.
What should Norwich City do to try and salvage their Premier League status?
The obvious answer to this is to replace the man in charge, with names out there including Chris Wilder and Eddie Howe who both have Premier League experience and know what it takes to keep a newly promoted side in the topflight. There is also ongoing speculation around Newcastle boss Steve Bruce’s future, with their new owners supposedly adamant of replacing Bruce. Again, his Premier League experience and knowhow might be just what Norwich need.
It may be that Norwich need to invest again in the January transfer window, perhaps on a more prolific and proven centre forward. But given that they have the least wealthy owners in the league, is this a realistic solution? It could even be too late to salvage their season by January should their current form continue.
The Canaries might simply need a change of shape to become more competitive. In their first five games this season Norwich lined up with a back four but couldn’t cope at the back, suffering 5-0 and 3-0 defeats – albeit against arguably the two best teams in the league, Manchester City and Liverpool. In their last three fixtures against Everton, Burnley and Brighton, they have started with a back five. Despite being defeated 2-0 by Rafa Benitez’s Everton, they have since earned back-to-back clean sheets against Sean Dyche’s Burnley as well as at Carrow road against the Seagulls last time out – which is a start.
They still need much more improvement across various areas of the pitch – particularly on the goalscoring front. But the recent change of approach seems to have at least tightened up their vulnerable back line for now.
Whichever route Norwich choose to go down, whether that’s replacing the man in charge, investing in January or altering their tactics, they need to take action fast if they want to avoid a repeat of two years ago.