Michael Bailey: Gaps and goals – Six things ahead of Norwich City’s Premier League return
PUBLISHED: 10:18 13 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:39 13 May 2019
Norwich City are returning to the Premier League – Michael Bailey posts his half-dozen preparations for the Canaries and for us all, ahead of next season.
1 - You'll need to be the first to change
All those goals, wins, comebacks. A relentless journey where it felt everything went Norwich City's way. A truly intoxicating season.
Isn't that why we all love the Championship? Especially when it goes so well.
Summer is a break but also a reset for you guys. If the rest doesn't come, the appetite doesn't return - and with it, generally comes expectation. That is one thing - but it's pride that should really kick in. Your club, playing in the league that has dominated European competition. Your city, back on the global football map.
And this time there should be no inferiority complex - rather a full appreciation for City's canny recruitment, youth products and stylish football taking on the big boys, just like it did in the heady days of 1992-93.
The final outcome may fall short of that vintage - but the pride you felt in your club should match it. And in turn, that should be what protects this term's shoots of unity in the stands.
2 - Toes have been dipped in the water
It started early - the sentiment Daniel Farke's Norwich City project could be more suited to the Premier League than the Championship. Generally it was a fan's mitigation for a disappointing first season.
My, haven't things progressed since then - and while we all look at some of the expansive football and number of goals conceded this season and fear the work needed to keep out some of the world's elite, there are other things to bear in mind.
Farke's side have conceded just once in 210 minutes, most of those in London, against Chelsea; lost in extra-time at Arsenal, won in Cardiff and lost only narrowly at Bournemouth.
City played well in all four games, against players more than capable of Premier League football. In all the games, City balanced attack and defence - a hint their style can both adapt and work.
Don't judge Norwich by how they went about the Championship. They know the next task is a different beast.
3 - Sitting on some extra protection
Head of recruitment Kieran Scott agreed with me - most can judge the positions Norwich will seek for their key summer targets.
One of those is probably instigated by a success this season. Ben Godfrey looks like being considered primarily as a centre-back in Farke's eyes - and that now seems certain to leave City wondering who they now need in midfield to screen their Premier League defence.
Tom Trybull, Kenny McLean, Moritz Leitner, Mario Vrancic - all possess supreme technical ability and attacking prowess. All can compete too, as they have proven regularly this season.
But in the top flight, a 10-yard gap can see someone pop one in from 30 yards. Improving Farke's screening options seems inevitable. It could make the difference.
Few drove Leicester's stunning top-flight adjustment better than N'Golo Kanté - a £5.6m signing from Caen; the sort of deal Norwich are currently dreaming of conjuring up.
4 - There's a key recruit for striker-light City
Jordan Rhodes and Teemu Pukki were the ideal Championship combination. The fact that before a ball was kicked either of them could have topped City's scoring charts, says it all.
But that journey is over now. Rhodes will return to Sheffield Wednesday following his loan and Norwich will be busying themselves with a fresh option to ably support Pukki - if not give him a stern run for his money.
Strikers are the hardest players to recruit, to get over the line and the most expensive to buy - as City's Premier League past proves.
The summer of 2013, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper; £13.5m between them - 57 appearances and seven goals the first-season output, alongside a Championship return.
Those points are for context rather than comparison. This is a very different Canaries world - and that in itself provides a degree of trust that whoever comes in, may raise eyebrows for the right reasons.
5 - A brave new world for referees
I still remember Mark Bunn racing out of his goal at the Stadium of Light, our Premier League monitors flashing up replays - and the referee sending the keeper off for a handball outside his area that didn't happen.
That moment was exactly why VAR had to come in, as quickly as possible. And all being well, that's exactly where the Premier League will be come August, when it is finally introduced properly to an English competition.
Now, the system isn't where it needs to be yet - clearly. We've experienced games with VAR already - such as the FA Cup ties with Chelsea - and it all became a bit of a mess, even though the decisions were right; people seem to get caught up in the process rather than the result.
Communicating to the crowd in the ground and ditching the reliance on the official in the middle to be seen to make decisions will help no end.
But it's new and different - and it will almost certainly be a rather public experiment.
6 - The return of former rivalries
The thing that makes the Premier League is the clubs. England's elite. The biggest names. And Norwich City can take up a few of the rivalries they left in 2016.
We'll have Manchester United fans in yellow and green scarves, Manchester City and Liverpool supporters imaging bucketloads of goals (I'm not saying that won't happen).
We can say hello again to Chris Hughton (well, it looked that way when I wrote this on Sunday) as well as fans of some clubs who may have glibly felt they would never play Norwich again: Burnley, Southampton, Watford, Crystal Palace…
There are players who left Norwich to better themselves - often for good reason: James Maddison leads that particular crew. Two new stadia, a revamped Anfield plus clubs at the other end of the model scale to Canaries. I'm looking at you Chelsea, Bournemouth and Wolves.
For the fifth time in eight seasons, Norwich City are part of the elite - and this time, they'll do it their way. Bring it on.
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