Fasten your seat belts – Norwich City’s 2017-18 Championship journey starts here
- Credit: Lorraine O'Sullivan/Focus Images
The successes or failures of pre-season are generally about as good an indicator of what to expect once the serious stuff starts as picking through chicken entrails or studying the stars.
While Daniel Farke’s squad has emerged unbeaten from the warm-up games, putting in some impressive performances on the way, all of us well remember the way that City breezed through an unbeaten build-up under Bryan Gunn only to implode against Colchester United in their first league game.
So, feet on the ground is the order of the day, but that doesn’t mean that the last few weeks should be dismissed out of hand. Nevertheless, City go into today’s game with a radically overhauled squad beset by injuries to key players and using a very different system to that with which the players who have survived from last season would have been familiar.
That doesn’t mean that I’m feeling negative about the season to come, because I’m actually very excited, but it does concern me that fans might expect too much too soon given so many changes. Patience will undoubtedly be needed, but equally I have no doubt whatsoever that it will be rewarded.
Whereas City frequently looked devoid of ideas last season and regularly appeared to be tiring in the final quarter of games, Farke has shown a willingness to change formations in the course of games, and would seem to favour three at the back, although he has used a flat four at times in pre-season.
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Also, fitness shouldn’t be a problem with the players talking about a greater level in intensity in training, so I don’t see any issues there.
However, what may take more time is cohesion. With the defence and the midfield being largely remodelled it may take several games for everything to gel together. I have every confidence that this season’s City will be stronger at the back and more fluid in midfield, but players can only develop their understanding of each other by playing together and there will inevitably be the odd setback on the way.
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There will be times where opponents will make use of the extra space in wide areas that a back three offers to overload City’s wing backs, and I’m sure that the odd goal will result from the fact that Farke’s system encourages interplay between defenders and goalkeeper rather than aimlessly lumping the ball forward.
However, all the signs are that the players have fully bought into the way that Farke wants to play and are happy with the roles that he’s assigned to them. That’s something which didn’t always appear to be the case in the second half of Alex Neil’s tenure, and it should hopefully translate into greater commitment when the going gets tough.
Today is certainly a baptism of fire for Farke, who follows in the footsteps of Chris Hughton and Neil Adams in taking charge of his first league game as City manager at Craven Cottage, and I well remember arriving there full of optimism for the season’s opening game under Hughton only to see City humiliated 5-0.
With no win there for over three decades this is probably the worst possible opening fixture that the computer could have thrown up, but that won’t stop me or any of my fellow fans from travelling with hope in our hearts.
The whole club seems refreshed this season, with better use of social media and better rapport with fans as well as a clear policy of bringing in players for the future as well as for the here and now without breaking the bank. All the signs are that holistic planning is now the order of the day.
Of course, there is no guarantee that will translate into immediate success on the pitch, but I think we have an exciting ride ahead, and I certainly can’t wait for three o’clock to arrive.