Like last season, the general consensus heading into the big kick-off away at Birmingham is cautious optimism combined with the idea of heading into the unknown once again.
On paper, the squad at Daniel Farke’s disposal doesn’t contain any big names compared to last season – the likes of James Maddison, Josh Murphy and perhaps the outgoing Nelson Oliviera – but the reality is that the Canaries’ roster is looking far more balanced, with competition for every position and the ability to mix things up formation-wise when it suits.
Many of the players will already have Championship experience from last year, yet some unknown quantities may be just as keen to stamp their mark on the team and show supporters what they can offer. It remains to be seen whether the Emi Buendia’s, Teemu Pukki’s, and Felix Passlack’s of the squad can cope with the physicality needed in the second tier, but from pre-season showings, the signs are all good.
The main objective is to finish higher than last season and that could very well be achieved, if Mr Farke can strike the right balance between the newfound attacking endeavour and defensive resoluteness shown last campaign.
However, given the money that other teams harbouring Premier League aspirations have spent, it seems unlikely that a top six finish can be on the cards; however, I’m happy to be proved wrong!
New season, new hope and I have high expectations for this coming season.
Everything being relative, high in this case is not winning the league but making a concerted push for the final play-off position. Some astute signings does have the squad shaped more in the footballing style that Daniel Farke requires for his possession style of play.
Clearly there are stronger squads in the division, but championship experience has been added to the continental flavour that has arrived in the last three windows. I certainly expect the style of football to still be possession based but with a much-needed cutting edge. Do not get me wrong I am not expecting a Barcelona/Manchester City hybrid but certainly it is not wrong to expect quicker play in to the final third.
I do not expect the team to be in full flow brushing teams aside from the start; with another mini squad overhaul a settling in process is inevitable. But after five or so games I do hope to see the team playing to its full potential, after a tricky start I see the season panning out into a successful conclusion which for me means a play-off spot whilst enjoying the beautiful game being played beautifully.
Whenever placing a prediction, the heart often overrules the head and optimism drowns pragmatism. Talk of the top six is, perhaps, a tad optimistic.
The reality is that often the prediction controlled by emotion, coupled with the pragmatic and straight-thinking thought process can leave you feeling glass half full or empty. Often the best prediction relies on a judgement of those two components.
Thus, expectation of a top six finish can appear as optimistic. Yet, nobody expected Nigel Worthington’s class of 2003/04 to win the Championship title. Nor was there an expectation around Paul Lambert’s swashbuckling squad of that infamous double promotion at the beginning of the season.
Sometimes underdogs rise and create a narrative which nobody had foreseen.
On the flip side of that coin, there is the injection of realism. Progression needs to be seen, and the mediocre finish last season left a bitter pill to swallow for most Canaries supporters. Furthermore, a more offensively minded style of football needs to be played, as oppose to the ‘colour by numbers’ style which was seen too much last season.
On paper, Norwich’s squad contains more equilibrium, but variation and spontaneity are required to improve the profligacy witnessed last season. An improvement will be seen, but perhaps not at the rate of knots some Norwich supporters would like.