How does City's new Premier League squad compare to two years ago?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Stuart Webber admitted after relegation in 2019 that he’d sent Daniel Farke “to war without a gun” following disappointing recruitment.
Championship title-winning players were rewarded with a host of new contracts alongside the loan additions of Ibrahim Amadou, Ralf Fahrmann and Patrick Roberts, and the signings of Josip Drmic and Sam Byram.
Add the January arrivals of Lukas Rupp, Ondrej Duda and Sam McCallum and business that season was worth around £10million in total, to supplement a squad packed full of young talents such as Emi Buendia, Max Aarons and Ben Godfrey.
Yet we all know about the misery that followed – taking into account an early defensive injury crisis and a season interrupted by a three-month suspension.
This year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic costing City around £35million in expected income during the past 18 months, Webber had more financial muscle to flex thanks to the club bouncing straight back to the Premier League.
The Canaries’ sporting director was able to spend around £50m this summer, in conjunction with the sale of star man Buendia to Aston Villa for an initial £33m after the Argentine made clear he wanted the move.
With nine new faces added to Farke’s squad alongside the loans of Ben Gibson and Dimitris Giannoulis being made permanent, there has been widespread approval of the business completed among supporters.
- 1 NCFC LIVE: Canaries in Premier League action at Everton
- 2 Farke reveals Tzolis' 'punishment' for penalty gaffe
- 3 Canaries keeper sent out on loan
- 4 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-0 defeat at Everton
- 5 PRESSER: Everton v City - Rashica a doubt; Normann and Sargent fit
- 6 STARTING XIs: Two changes for City at Everton
- 7 Robin Sainty: Not the reaction City boss hoped for...
- 8 Godfrey had out-grown City's Championship quest
- 9 Hanley will answer City critics
- 10 Farke on why half measures will not do against Benitez
That mostly hinged on the final two additions late in the transfer window, of Norway midfielder Mathias Normann and Turkey centre-back Ozan Kabak, both on loan with a view to permanent deals reportedly worth in excess of £11m if the season proves successful.
As City fans eagerly await evidence of the transfer window proving as successful as hoped, how do Farke’s squads compare, two years apart?
Prior to 2019-20
Premier League apps: 299
International caps: 249
2019-20 v Man City (4-2-3-1): Krul; Byram, Amadou, Godfrey, Lewis; Tettey, McLean; Buendia, Stiepermann, Cantwell; Pukki.
The best result of the season was directly after the September international break, despite a host of injury problems leaving the Canaries without eight players and with two keepers on the bench alongside a young Adam Idah and the lesser-spotted Philip Heise.
That team put in an inspired display despite the visiting champions being heavy favourites and then held on to the 3-2 win with an exhausted rear-guard effort.
Looking at that XI, eight players were just getting to grips with their first experience of the Premier League with only Tim Krul, Alex Tettey and Byram having previous experience.
Amadou brought a good bit of experience from the Spanish and French top tiers, having previously captained Lille, but was still persevering at centre-back after the injuries to Timm Klose and Christoph Zimmermann, with the returning Grant Hanley only on the bench as emergency cover.
Teemu Pukki had played in the Bundesliga for Schalke but otherwise, his top-flight experience was of a lower standard in Finland, Denmark and Scotland.
Also missing that day were players including Moritz Leitner, Tom Trybull, Mario Vrancic and Onel Hernandez, with a bit of Bundesliga experience between them but all new to the Premier League.
Premier League apps: 618
International caps: 313
2021-22 v Arsenal (3-4-3): Krul; Kabak, Hanley, Gibson; Aarons, Lees-Melou, Normann, Williams; Cantwell, Idah, Rashica
I’ve predicted a potential line-up for the Canaries at Arsenal on Saturday, going for an initially defensive set-up with the intention of frustrating a Gunners squad and head coach under already significant pressure.
For most matches against teams considered direct rivals, such as the upcoming visit of Watford, I’d expect Farke to go with a more attacking shape – acknowledging that Arsenal are in a false position, sitting bottom of the table after three games.
I’ve also gone with Adam Idah as the striker after the praise he has received as the lone target man for Ireland in recent days, expecting that Josh Sargent’s action for the USA in the early hours of Thursday morning will make him a bench option at best.
I’d still expect Pukki to lead the line for much of the season if he can find goal-scoring form but against the big boys, the more physical presence of Sargent or Idah could prove better-suited.
Eight of that starting XI have Premier League experience. The other three were playing top-flight football last season, with Normann in a lower standard top tier in Russia but having just started Norway’s last two games.
Six of that team are established and current international players, as opposed to three from that team of two years ago, of Pukki, Jamal Lewis and Kenny McLean – prior to Krul returning to the Holland set-up.
The bigger indicator is arguably the players I’ve left out of the current XI though.
Dimitris Giannoulis, Billy Gilmour, Christos Tzolis, McLean, Pukki and Sargent would all be seen as strong contenders for the starting XI at this stage.
Further competition comes from the likes of Angus Gunn, Andrew Omobamidele, Lukas Rupp and Kieran Dowell, with others such as Christoph Zimmermann, Jacob Sorensen, Bali Mumba and Przemek Placheta also in the mix.
There is no doubting that Farke has a far deeper and, arguably, better squad than two years ago – when the transfer window closed prior to the season starting.
Now it’s about finding the best system to suit the players available and making the most of that competition for places, to start picking up the points and building the confidence, all while maintaining squad harmony.
It’s a delicate balancing act but City’s head coach has been equipped with plenty of weapons to choose from for the Premier League battleground, as he bids to prove he is a coach who belongs at the top level.