Paddy Davitt: Farke's pre-season priorities
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
1 Sign him up, sign him up
He might not have it as his top priority ahead of the Premier League kick off, but from the moment Stuart Webber revealed at the start of the summer Farke is receptive to extending his contract, which has now entered the final 12 months, more than one Norwich fan has since labelled that as arguably the best piece of business City’s sporting director could do this window.
Now Farke is back in England those contractual formalities can be concluded.
The head coach himself made it clear in the German media he does not want the distraction or endless questions about his future once the season is underway.
Expect his signature on the paperwork before Liverpool head to Carrow Road next month.
Farke has had chances to leave Norfolk as, each triumph enhanced his coaching reputation. But a proper crack at establishing the club in the Premier League is a challenge he wants.
No doubt he has sought assurances from Webber on his own future beyond the end of their current deals in 2022. Take Farke’s willingness to commit as another positive signal the sporting director is open to continuing their double act.
2 Brawn and brains
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Billy Gilmour’s arrival from Chelsea is a sign of intent.
Farke himself was very quick to preach caution and patience, given the 20-year-old's body of work at Premier League level is dwarfed by his soaring reputation which was embellished by a starring role in Scotland’s 0-0 Euro2020 draw against England.
The chances of Olly Skipp returning appear to hinge on what new Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo has planned for the combative central midfielder.
Norwich remain keen on Bournemouth’s Philip Billing, albeit there is plenty of work to find common ground on the Cherries’ valuation of their cultured playmaker.
With Alex Tettey, Mario Vrancic, Marco Stiepermann and Moritz Leitner all exiting the building this summer, Norwich’s midfield makeover could hold the key to their Premier League prospects.
City embarked on that first top flight tilt under Farke with Leitner and Tom Trybull in a technically proficient but perhaps defensively vulnerable pairing.
They finished that season of woe with Tettey partnering Kenny McLean in a more robust offering.
Finding the middle ground is Farke’s challenge this time around; marrying the ability to control the tempo of games and possession, with shielding a backline that cannot be as exposed as last time in the big league.
3 Protecting Pukki
By his own honest admission, Norwich City’s master marksman was a long way short of his razor-sharp self for Finland at Euro 2020. No goals, few real chances and a lot of evident frustration on his face as he defied the ankle injury that curtailed his club season and wrecked his pre-tournament build up.
For City fans watching him toil in the white shirt of his country it may have evoked memories of the Pukki who laboured in the second half of that previous Premier League tilt.
After a tremendous start to his campaign, that hat-trick against Newcastle, that player-of-the-month award up against the biggest and the best, his foot injury at Leicester just before Christmas acted as a painful watershed moment.
It underlined again, graphically, how important and how reliant Norwich have become on the fearsome frontman.
Pukki returns to the Premier League after another dominant display of goalscoring in the Championship.
But with those fresh fitness concerns, allied to the gruelling workload he has carried in recent seasons, Farke will know he needs alternatives to ease the pressure and cope with any absences to the main man.
Adam Idah is expected to step up and start to justify the faith Farke has in the Republic of Ireland international. But there is also the possibility of enticing fresh firepower in what remains of this transfer window.
Blackburn’s Adam Armstrong was a target, although any hopes of bringing him to Carrow Road look to have receded with firm interest elsewhere in the Premier League.
But it remains one less eye-catching strand of their summer recruitment strategy.
4 Replacing the irreplaceable Emi Buendia
Milot Rashica looks to have a fine pedigree but he is not viewed as a direct replacement for Buendia.
That creative burden, that voluminous number of goals and assists in the Championship title surge provided by Aston Villa’s expensively-acquired attacker, will need to be shared.
The onus is on the likes of Todd Cantwell and Kieran Dowell, alongside Rashica, is to accept that responsibility and rise to the challenge to provide the ammunition for Pukki and his pals up top.
When Norwich needed a spark, when they needed inspiration, it was more often than not sourced from Buendia’s talented feet and quick brain.
His understanding with Pukki, his ability to spot those runs down the sides of centre backs and the technical quality to provide the killer passes, has been a huge part of City’s Championship success under Farke.
Now the head coach has to dial down what Norwich’s creative spearhead looks and feels like minus the Argentine at his disposal.
Pre-season will offer plenty of clues but this could be a much longer work in progress, given the shadow Buendia cast over Norwich’s starting line up.
5 Stay or go
Given Webber mapped out a desire to reduce the manpower in order to up the quality threshold for this latest Premier League bid, Farke may have to decide over pre-season who remains on the journey.
Or who, for now at least, might be better served heading to pastures new.
There is a clutch of young talent on the periphery but Farke will need to weigh up whether the Premier League is too big a gulf to bridge. Be it young full backs like Sam McCallum or Bali Mumba.
Or the impressive Andrew Omobamidele, who betrayed no sign of nerves as he stepped into central defence for the title run in but may find his starting chances limited even further if City successfully bring in a high class centre back to compete with Ben Gibson, Grant Hanley and Christoph Zimmermann.
In some respects and in some of those cases, an eye-catching pre-season may just tip the balance for a head coach who views young talent as a desirable commodity rather than a short term hindrance.