Chris Goreham: Tales of the unexpected all over again for Canaries fans
PUBLISHED: 17:30 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:30 08 August 2019
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The absurdity of making pre-season predictions has never been clearer than it is this year.
How can one possibly guess the unguessable? Last August I was convinced that Ben Marshall was Norwich City's most solid summer signing, that Jordan Rhodes would comfortably outscore the free transfer that was Teemu Pukki and the idea of the great Paul Lambert one day surfacing as the manager of Ipswich Town hadn't even entered my head.
The 12 months since have been nothing short of remarkable. How can anyone possibly have foreseen, with any confidence, that Pukki's golden boots would inspire the Canaries to a deserved Championship title, that the untried Max Aarons would be so good he would effectively end the City careers of three other right backs in Marshall, Ivo Pinto and Felix Passlack and that Lambert's Carrow Road return in blue and white would end with a touchline tussle en route to League One? I know it's my job to provide wise analysis of all things Norwich City, but I maintain that there is simply no way anyone could possibly have seen all of that coming.
It means there is a determination to go into the great mystery that is season 2019/20 with an open mind.
One prediction I will make is that Norwich City will lose more league matches than they did last season. Wow, there it is. Really sticking my neck on the line with that one aren't I? Remember Daniel Farke's side tasted defeat only seven times as they romped to promotion and three of those came in August, so anticipating a few more setbacks after such a giant leap in league status is more pragmatic than it is negative, but accepting this here and now may be key to the mood around the Canaries in the Premier League.
The ability to absorb and cope with losing matches is a key component of surviving in the billionaire's playground for anyone outside of the lauded top six.
In the Premier League last season, 12 of the 20 teams lost more matches than they won. That's everyone from Leicester City, who finished ninth, downwards.
The trend is backed up by a look at the careers of some the managers that clubs often turn to when they are desperate to stay up. Sam Allardyce, Tony Pulis and Roy Hodgson have all carved out reputations as expert fire fighters over the years and have become regarded as safe pairs of hands in the unforgiving Premier League battle ground. One thing they all have in common is they have all lost more matches in the division than they've won. Pulis has 98 wins and 131 defeats, Big Sam has been beaten 200 times and won on 174 occasions while Hodgson celebrated his 100th Premier League victory on the final day of last season to ease the pain of the 116 defeats on his record.
Even Harry Redknapp is slightly in the red with 236 wins compared to 238 defeats over the years.
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You wouldn't necessarily want to watch a side under the guidance of those doyennes of the dugout every week, but their cast iron reputations as survival specialists have been created because of a dogged determination not to allow a bad result here or a heavy defeat there throw them off course.
Norwich City's last Premier League campaign under Alex Neil actually started fairly promisingly. They picked up early wins over Sunderland and Bournemouth and even managed to emerge from Anfield and Upton Park with a point each. It all seemed to begin to unravel when they lost 6-2 at Newcastle United in October in a bizarre game during which both sides had six shots on target. They would win only one of their next seven league games and, bar a promising run over Christmas which included a memorable win at Old Trafford inspired by Alex Tettey's toe poke, they struggled and ended up finishing below a Sunderland side who had turned to Allardyce to keep them up.
It was after that defeat to Steve McClaren's Newcastle that concerns over the Canaries' identity on the pitch began to be raised by some of the former players we were using as summarisers on BBC Radio Norfolk that season. It wasn't clear which players or system would be employed from week to week as Neil appeared to lose faith in the methods and organisation that had worked so brilliantly in his first 25 games as City boss which culminated in that never-to-be-forgotten Wembley triumph against Middlesbrough.
If Daniel Farke has been anything in his two seasons in charge of Norwich it is consistent. He has been so in his tactical approach, his selection policy and his demeanour. One of the most impressive aspects of the Championship-winning campaign was that Farke didn't change in the way he spoke to us in the media or the fans from how he had done so when things had been much tougher in his first, mid-table, campaign.
The club currently prides itself on having a clear plan and a way of doing things on and off the pitch that is set out for all to see. Confidence in that may be tested at times over the next few months because there are bound to be spells when Norwich City's young players will have to dig deeper than they ever have before in order to get so much as a single point.
The defeats, when they come, will be painful because they always are, but it's probably worth noting now before we get swept up in all things yellow and green that some illustrious names have plotted their way through stormy and murky Premier League waters and come up smelling of roses.
I can only hope that the predictions that I am contractually obliged to provide at the bottom of this piece can do likewise and prove to be more accurate than last year's.
Where will City finish? 14th
Who will win the title? Manchester City
Who will go down? Sheffield United, Newcastle, Brighton