Five things to look out for ahead of Norwich City's pre-season campaign
- Credit: Norwich City/Matthew Usher
Norwich City are set to kick off their pre-season campaign ahead of the Premier League season this week. Connor Southwell takes a look at some of the major talking points.
City have confirmed their final calendar for pre-season after finalising a friendly fixture against Championship side Coventry City in July as part of a mini-training camp in the north of England. They will also face Sheffield United, Gillingham and Newcastle.
Gunn pushing Krul
Tim Krul is undisputably Norwich City's number one goalkeeper heading into the new Premier League campaign.
His performances throughout his three seasons at the club have seen him become a firm fan favourite and a pivotal member of City's dressing room. His shot-stopping ability saw him ranked among the best in the Championship last season and he will be keen to help the Canaries survive this time around.
Krul's best season for City arrived when Ralf Fahrmann was pushing him hard. Angus Gunn now arrives to fulfil a similar role.
Competition is healthy. Especially for goalkeepers. Krul will relish that and it could drive his performances to improve even further.
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That said, Gunn will be handed a starting berth in the opening weeks of pre-season as Krul enjoys a well-earned break after linking up with the Netherlands. That will allow the 25-year-old a run of friendly fixtures to impress Daniel Farke and goalkeeping coach Ed Wootten.
Some positive performances would also go some way to repair Gunn's confidence after his time at Southampton.
Omobamidele staking a claim
Much of the transfer discourse surrounding Norwich City's transfer window has been around their central defenders.
City have seen a bid in excess of £10million rejected by the Scottish side Celtic for Kristoffer Ajer, and they aren't prepared to go in within another offer. When you add in Andrew Omobamidele's performances in training, they have been left to revise their priorities this summer.
The young Irish defender is said to have kicked on from his performances at the end of City's Championship title-winning campaign and looks in tip-top condition ahead of their top-flight survival charge.
Whilst his development hasn't come as a shock, the acceleration of his improvement has. If Omobamidele does display performances in pre-season that suggest he is a credible frontline option for next season, then City may head down the route of recruiting a Premier League loanee rather than an expensive addition.
Omobamidele is currently boasting a better physical profile than Ben Godfrey was showing at the same age. There is plenty of excitement about his potential inside the walls of Colney but also a recognition of what is needed to improve further.
His performances in pre-season may decide whether City look to bolster their ranks with a significant signing or head down the loan route.
Life after Buendia
Emi Buendia's departure does leave a significant hole in the manner that City attack.
The Argentine was the Canaries' creator in chief and has been for three seasons, how they adapt to his absence could prove to be the difference between survival and relegation. Milot Rashica isn't a like for like replacement.
One theory is that Norwich could adopt a more counter-attacking approach. Given Rashica was largely somebody who contributed at the end of the move, rather than the start like Buendia, that would suggest this is something being considered by Farke and his coaching staff.
But, after James Maddison's exit, City went onto win the Championship and boast an incredibly talented, rounded team. Many may embrace the extra attacking responsibility, Todd Cantwell for example.
Pre-season may offer a fascinating insight into how City will operate in the Premier League. Although against lower reaching opposition minus the final fixture against Newcastle, their may be patterns of play that allude to a slightly different approach.
Primarily, the opening half of the friendlies are about fitness, but the Canaries' boss will look to deploy fresh tactics and be experimental with how he sets up his sides.
The next week to 10 days feel like a watershed moment for the right-back and his career at Carrow Road.
Sam Byram has been battling fitness issues since he limped out of City's 1-0 defeat to Liverpool in February 2019. Complications with his hamstring has seen the ex-Leeds and West Ham suffer setback after setback.
In City's last top-flight campaign, the full-back displaced Jamal Lewis at left-back and was one of the more impressive performers in a struggling side.
This week marks an important moment in his recovery, Byram will return to full contact training with his colleagues after weeks of individual work at Colney. It's unlikely the defender will return to action in their friendly against King's Lynn on Friday, but the hope is he will get some minutes in the behind closed door fixtures at Colney.
If he can manage that, then he becomes an option for Farke and offers cover in full-back areas. That could save Norwich from needing to dip into the market in search of extra cover.
Pre-season is the first moment for City supporters to witness their new recruits in action and will undoubtedly increase excitement towards the big kick-off against Liverpool on August 17.
A few goals for Milot Rashica or impressive performances from Billy Gilmour can help their standing with supporters and calm any nerves that they may struggle to adapt for City in the top-flight.
That said, Mario Vrancic was the standout performer in City's pre-season back in 2017-18 but struggled to hit the ground running when the Championship season began. His quality did eventually shine through, but it shows that pre-season can prove tricky to judge in-depth.
Most importantly, pre-season will mark the return of supporters in their droves, with legal restrictions that have governed our lives for 16 months set to be lifted on July 19. Beyond City's fixture against King's Lynn, that could mean full houses at Carrow Road and St James' Park. City are still waiting for guidance from all the relevant authorities.