Connor Southwell: There's plenty to admire about Norwich City's response to relegation
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After Norwich City's relegation to the Championship was confirmed, Daniel Farke reeled off a statistic that displayed how difficult it would be for them to bounce back at the first time of asking.
Only seven teams in the last ten seasons have managed to achieve that feat at the first attempt. For City, the odds are stacked against them. There are numerous examples of clubs who have got it wrong, either through throwing money at their deficiencies or recruiting the wrong coach to implement a style of play that doesn't suit the quality in their squad.
Boil it down, and there is a simplicity to the modern game. Select a playing style, choose a coach to implement and sculpt that style but above it all is patience. You can see the clubs that lack long-term strategy, that sack managers and then recruit coaches with contrasting methods in a quest for promotion.
Increasingly, long-term thinking and creative solutions to problems are seeing clubs thrive, whether that be Norwich, Huddersfield Town or Swansea City. Something the Canaries have done well is sticking with their strategy and staying wedded to it regardless of the patch of form.
After going down with a whimper, the acid test was whether City would stick with Farke, would opt to continue on their path of developing talent or decide to chase the dream. In many ways, as much as supporters won't wish to hear it, they made look as though relegation was part of the plan. Make no mistake, the manner of their demotion from the top-flight was far too easy in the end.
Let's get it straight, there were real flaws and major mistakes in their Premier League assault under Farke and Webber. The tactics were questionable at times, the recruitment wasn't good enough and the form after Project Restart was borderline embarrassing.
Responding to that and turning the tide seemed a big mission. Fast forward to12 games into the Championship season and City sit top of the pile, averaging two points per game and have played five of the current top eight.
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- 4 Paddy Davitt: Player ratings after Canaries' 3-1 Bournemouth defeat
- 5 “It was high on Ben and it was a red card' - Giannoulis bang to rights for Woodgate
- 6 'Mission Accomplished' - Norwich City fans celebrate promotion
- 7 Banning orders and revenge mission wide of the mark for City chief
- 8 Operation Bounce Back: The story of City's promotion success
- 9 City players and fans celebrate promotion on social media
- 10 Farke savours sweet Premier League promotion after rollercoaster ride
Despite that, question marks do persist. City are in the midst of another injury crisis, they have a central midfielder playing as a makeshift left-back and only three central defenders in their first-team squad. Decisions like allowing Sam McCallum to leave the club on loan are still confusing some factions of supporters.
On the pitch, they have improved defensively. They're overperforming their expected goals against and are pressing with more purpose. They've managed to improve those elements whilst retaining their offensive quality.
Teemu Pukki is beginning to show shades of the striker who banged in 29-goals two years ago. Emi Buendia is looking like the best player in the division - providing he can keep himself on the pitch.
The new signings are making an impact. Ollie Skipp has become a reliable midfield option, Ben Gibson is a leader whose voice booms around the empty stadiums and Przemek Placheta has shown flashes of his quality.
Even someone like Jordan Hugill, who has flattered to deceive on the pitch in open play so far, has injected intangible elements into a dressing room that got accused of a lack of leadership last season.
The way Norwich operate is very smart. The Premier League relegation took the gloss off their title-winning success two years ago and the praise that Farke and Webber received subsequently, but to navigate through the wreckage with clarity and decisiveness is difficult after a confidence bashing season.
Over their time at the club, they've expertly created assets. Doing so hinges on two key factors, smart recruitment and expert coaching, it's a key reason as to why they persisted with Farke despite the negative results in the top-flight.
Take someone like Bali Mumba, who was operating in the Northern Premier League for South Shields earlier this year, they've scouted a player with significant potential, converted him to full-back for a pittance. Imagine his worth after 15-20 Championship games. Asset building at its finest.
Think about their key players. Max Aarons was nurtured at the club after joining from Luton, Todd Cantwell was coached into a player being linked away for £20million plus, Buendia was a result of fine recruitment. All of those players are under 23. Given the effects of Covid, that could turn out to be critical for the club in the long-term.
City aren't blessed with deep pockets. That means their recruitment has to be different from the norm. They've shown the bravery to shop in Polish and Danish markets, which aren't as populated but means they have the ability to get a talented player for cheaper.
To build assets, recruit players based on a style of play rather than quality is logical. No club is perfect, there will be dips in the road and criticisms that emerge. But they have kept their head when other teams that get relegated have so easily lost it and been blinded by the short-term will to get to the Premier League, for that they deserve praise.
Supporters have plenty to be proud of their club for. Now it's about sustainability.