Matt Howman: Is it time for City to change their strategy?
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After a stuttered restart and an injury plagued few weeks, Daniel Farke continued to work his magic and has managed to maintain an impressive run of just three defeats in the first 20 games of the season.
As the squad now begins to resemble something akin to full-strength, the performances have become more and more controlled, composed and efficient. Norwich are setting the standard as genuine front-runners for one of the automatic promotion spots this year.
It’s always easy to point to a recently relegated side and assert that they should be pushing for promotion the following year. However, Farke hasn’t been without his challenges. When Norwich decided to sell both Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey, he had to work with the squad and rebuild his defensive line-up, especially considering that Godfrey often played an integral role in the build up of attacks with his range of passing and explosive turn of pace to carry the ball forward into midfield.
The defence last season was undeniably woeful, however Godfrey was a key player within the spine of the team so for Farke that would have been a major headache to try and find a suitable replacement.
He also had to ingratiate Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell back into the squad following months of transfer speculation, induct the likes of Oliver Skipp, Ben Gibson, Xavi Quintilla, Jacob Sorensen, Przemysław
Placheta and Kieran Dowell into the squad and then deal with a long-line of injuries at the start of the season. On reflection, it’s outstanding to see Norwich at the top of the table.
And now, after 20 games it’s safe to say Norwich will once again be seen as a serious contender for promotion.
But that throws up a new problem when you reflect on Norwich’s reputation in previous seasons as a yo-yo club. If the strategy of Norwich City is to be a self-sustaining entity without any outside investment, what can we do to propel ourselves into becoming a sustainable Premier League football club?
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As it currently stands, I can’t see a viable route. We may be in a better financial position than last time to invest in players, but in order to transform this current squad into one that could get the 37 plus points needed for Premier League survival, subjectively I’d put forward Norwich need at least two new centre-backs; to keep Max Aarons, Buendia and Teemu Pukki and add at least another holding midfielder that will protect the back two and that’s proven themselves in the Premier League.
In today's market, £50-60 million? Perhaps more.
Under Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke’s stewardship, the club has been very structured on developing the club from the inside, promoting youth players from within the academy and using an astute recruitment team to find bargains within the market.
How can you transform that into what the Premier League now essentially requires which is a policy of spend to win? There’s no overnight solution to this and you run the risk of dismantling all the hard work undertaken over the past few years to get Norwich to where they are.
It leaves Norwich in a tricky position. Without a confident series of considered purchases within the market, the squad simply won’t be elevated to the standard it needs to compete at the next level. If the recruitment team gets it wrong, Norwich could find themselves back in the same position we were in before Farke’s arrival where we had a bloated wage bill and a lot of players that needed shifting from the club.
The club have been very clear that the aim for Norwich City is to be a “top 26 club” but is it now time they look at the likes of Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Brighton and aim to be on par, if not better than them?
Norwich have an excellent management structure, they’ve transformed the training ground facilities, we’re financially stable and there are quality players within the squad to build upon. If we do find ourselves promoted in May, maybe now is the time to take that risk, invest the money and make becoming a top 16 club our new strategy.