Samuel Seaman: Never too soon to start promotion planning
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
I can already sense the panicked shouts not to count my chickens.
Norwich City are top of the league. It’s a sentence that feels like it doesn’t come round very often but has actually been extremely prevalent in the recent vocabulary of a club of this size.
We’ve barely passed the quarter mark in the fixture list, but with a fair amount of doom and gloom around the current injury list and in need of a pick-me-up, I’ve taken this as my cue to start looking ahead to certain automatic promotion.
Part of the problem with promotion the last time it was achieved was the surprise with which it crept up on the club.
It was a wonder to behold for Canaries fans, but meant City were forced to change their transfer targets, spending plans and elements of infrastructure with very little notice.
What followed was a minimal spend relative to their Premier League rivals, 20th place and a dismal 21 points. It’s safe to say that, whether I’m counting my chickens or not, planning must start now if the club want to make a success of their next Premier League adventure.
The truth is that the planning has already started. There was a conscious effort in the summer to bring in players who could not only contribute to a significant promotion push, but also to a survival bid should the former prove successful.
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Xavi Quintilla looks the real deal (there are shades of Javier Garrido and we all know what a smooth Premier league operator he was).
Ben Gibson has experience at the top level, Jacob Sorensen looks at least top-level Championship class and he’s a right-footed midfielder playing at left-back; while Oliver Skipp will surely be ripe for a second loan should promotion be achieved.
Kieran Dowell will be hoping he can prove his pedigree upon his return.
These five certainly won’t be able to achieve survival on their own, so the question becomes whether City’s relegated crop have improved enough to do what they couldn’t last time round.
In some cases it’s obvious. Emi Buendia is clearly Premier League class. Michael McGovern will not be contributing significantly.
The area becomes a bit greyer with the likes of Grant Hanley. The Scot has a decent claim at the Championship team of the week’s captaincy, and has been the definition of solid since the trip to Brentford (he took a couple of games to get up to speed), but played just fifteen league games in 2019/20.
His injury record must improve if he’s to be effective in the Premier League, where there will be very little time to get up to speed.
Teemu Pukki’s eleven goals last season was a total most Norwich fans would’ve taken had it been offered in July 2019, a similar number will need to be produced and will certainly need to be less than 42% of the team’s total for the term. Goals from other positions are a key area of required improvement.
Lukas Rupp, one of the team’s top performers so far this season, was frustratingly poor in his six months in England’s top tier, but does have experience in the Bundesliga and may prove useful with a year of adapting to Daniel Farke’s system and squad.
Todd Cantwell proved that on his day he can certainly be a Premier League player. The only area in which he could’ve improved last season was his consistency, an issue he can iron out against the lower quality in the Championship (if he doesn’t burn his Norwich City bridges before then).
Some of the cult heroes from 2018/19 really struggled to up their level in 2019/20. Marco Stiepermann totalled no goals and no assists. Mo Leitner and Tom Trybull certainly won’t be contributing to survival next time. Mario Vrancic looked more frustrated than creative.
The question remains as to whether Stiepermann and Vrancic can prove valuable this time, and who from the current crop will struggle as they did previously.
Additions will certainly need to be made, whatever happens between now and the summer of 2021.
They will clearly need to be better than the likes of Patrick Roberts and Ondrej Duda. Some pressure rests on the shoulders of Stuart Webber, some on Mr. Farke and a huge amount on his players.
One thing is for sure, it’s never too early to start planning for success.