Melissa Rudd: There's no magic formula for Premier League survival but surely City could have spent a bit more?
PUBLISHED: 09:00 16 January 2020
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We all knew City would take a few hammerings this season at the hands of some of the big boys. Given Manchester United's inconsistency it just felt a little disappointing that two have come against them.
Much like the reverse fixture at Carrow Road, Norwich were never really in the game owing to their own poor performance and an impressive one from their opponents. The post-match debate again centred on whether more investment in the squad from the boardroom in the summer would have actually resulted in the team putting more points on the board.
Adam Idah's inability to have any impact on the game, which is barely surprising given his only other taste of Premier League action came as an 89th minute substitute against Crystal Palace, highlighted the lack of depth in Daniel Farke's squad now Dennis Srbeny has departed.
The problem is there is no magic formula for staying in the Premier League, much like there isn't one for reaching it. Fulham's disastrous 2018-19 campaign, where they forked out £100 million on the acquisition of 19 players yet were still relegated with five games to play, is often held up as the antithesis to the theory that money buys survival in the top league.
Having spent £140m, Villa could well be this season's 'Fulham' equivalent. Splashing all that cash, potentially risking financial ruin and yet they are only six points better off than Norwich? Further proof that big spending doesn't equal in a big points haul you might say - though ironically it proved enough to beat City home and away, and they look far more likely than we do to stay up.
For every 'Fulham' though, there is a tale of a team who has achieved safety by spending far less, like Brighton two years ago who spent barely £25m and survived. Last summer Sheffield United spent just over £40m and are currently sixth in the table.
On the face of it, spending even close to those sums is still a risk for Norwich City, a self-funded club lacking a billionaire owner.
Yet research by Deloitte in June revealed that Premier League promotion is worth more than ever before. Even a club relegated after one campaign will earn £170m over three seasons. They estimated that figure could even increase to £290 million over a five-year period should the club stay up just one season.
None of us can know for certain, but you can't help but get the feeling that if Norwich had made a couple of significant signings to strengthen in key areas they would be in a stronger position to do just that. So when the prize for getting to the top flight is so grand, and the one for staying up almost as great, isn't spending at least some of that money a calculated risk, rather than a massive gamble?
Even if the club insist that by keeping spending to a minimum there won't need to be a fire-sale, the likes of Emi Buendia, Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons and Teemu Pukki are all assets likely to be eyed up by other clubs in the summer should they go down, and who says they will want to stay for Championship football?
For all the talk of being ahead of the plan plotted out by Stuart Webber, the landscape at Colney could look very different come August should those players depart. It might feel like one giant step forward has been followed by a couple of steps back, if several players who helped Farke win promotion leave.
Back to the here and now though, and the arrivals of Ondrej Duda and Lukas Rupp at least bolster Farke's squad ahead of such a massive fixture on Saturday. If City are to pull off a miracle and survive, a win against beleaguered Bournemouth is imperative. Not just because it could potentially drag them within five points of safety, but it would also keep Eddie Howe's side firmly in the mire.