Rob Sainty: City have the 'ammo' - time to make things happen

Josh Sargent rues a missed chance

Canaries striker Josh Sargent rues a missed chance during the game against Leicester - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

In summer 2019, City’s limited financial resources were predominantly used to sign the young stars of their Championship winning season to improved long-term contracts, a strategy which failed to achieve the aim of making Norwich a competitive Premier League club. 

However, the other side of that coin is that those contracts allowed Stuart Webber to get top dollar for Ben Godfrey and Emi Buendia as well as Jamal Lewis, who signed a new contract in late 2018. It also enabled him to slap big price tags onto Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell to deter interest. 

This time around there has been a ruthless intensity to City‘s approach to the transfer window, with fringe players either being loaned out or having their contracts terminated and nine players, six of them full internationals, being brought in to add to the permanent signings of Dimitris Giannoulis and Ben Gibson at the end of their loan spells. 

Last time around Webber admitted to sending Daniel Farke “into war without a gun” but that certainly isn’t the case this time. 

Just like last season it will mean that the expectations of Farke will be ramped up, a challenge that he rose to in guiding City to their second title in three years, but this will certainly be the biggest test of his Norwich career. 

While in 2019/20, City’s squad lacked depth, that will not be the case this season with genuine competition for every position, a situation that any manager dreams of, and the challenge for Farke this season will be finding the right combinations. 

Certainly, the arrival of a genuine defensive midfielder In Matthias Normann is something that may well prove critical in giving more cover to the back four than Billy Gilmour has been able to and will also allow Farke to push the Scot further forward into a more familiar position, while Ozan Kabak’s signing may encourage him to use the three at the back set-up that was trialled in pre-season, given the natural attacking inclinations of City’s full-backs. 

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There can be no doubting the level of talent and potential that is now at Farke’s disposal, but one thing that the squad lacks is significant Premier League experience. 

Last week’s game was another tough lesson in how ruthless this level of football is. The opposition press on City’s defenders in possession is much more effective, and mistakes like the one committed by Brandon Williams can be converted to goals within seconds. 

Whereas in the Championship full-backs getting to the byeline are generally happy to get the ball into the danger area, Ricardo Pereira got his head up, while Jamie Vardy used his experience to find the space to convert his perfect pass. Simple, precise and deadly. 

The winner was also a case of City being architects of their own downfall, but their performance after a worrying opening 20 minutes was impressive and deserved more, although the golden chances spurned by Josh Sargent and Adam Idah are the sort that must be taken at this level. 

They can also learn from Leicester’s approach to game management, with Kasper Schmeichel and James Maddison in particular constantly in the referee’s ear, tactical fouls and players going down to break up play when City were pressing. 

It’s cynical, it’s infuriating, but it’s something that every side does. There was a widely-held belief that City were naïve and much too “nice” last time they were in the Premier League and this time they must be tougher and more streetwise, which is why the arrivals of Normann and Kabak are so important. 

It will take a bit more time for everyone to settle but the transfer window has given City a genuine chance of establishing themselves at this level, despite the usual ill-informed negativity from the national media. Webber has worked wonders and now it’s down to Farke and his players to make it happen. 

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