Last season's Championship winners, Norwich City looked to have their best chance in decades to cement themselves as a Premier League club this term. Daniel Farke's men romped to the second-tier title last May following a season of all-out attacking football, with incessant wing play and clinical finishing. It was a joy to watch for the neutral in many respects; largely because the Canaries' budget was that much smaller than some of their promotion rivals with their Premier League parachute money to hand.
At the beginning of the new Premier League season, it was the Canaries who were expected to be the shock contenders for a top-half finish, rather than the Championship's runners-up, Sheffield United. An opening day hammering at Liverpool was not quite what the doctor ordered for the Canaries, but a positive result against Newcastle and, latterly, a shock 3-2 home win over champions Manchester City, demonstrated their attacking qualities. Argentine playmaker Emi Buendia and Finnish forward Teemu Pukki were both in red-hot form, creating plenty of chances and taking them with aplomb.
City's reliance on Pukki and inexperienced full backs is costing them dear
However, since then the Canaries have tailed off alarmingly of late. Their inability to keep clean sheets has been their biggest failing. City supporters, as well as coach Daniel Farke, would both point to a shocking injury list, with several defensive leaders on the sidelines. Players like Christoph Zimmerman and Timm Klose have been big holes to fill for the likes of Grant Hanley, who is – by and large – a top-end Championship defender rather than a top-flight one.
There's also been the small matter of two young, promising, but very inexperienced full backs in the shape of Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis. Both enjoyed hugely impressive seasons in the Championship, playing a key role in the Canaries' front-foot approach. Aarons in particular has already caught the eye of Premier League scouts, with the likes of Tottenham said to be courting his services long-term.
Farke has impressively kept faith in both rookie full backs in the top flight, but this may have been to the detriment of City's stability at the back. Last term, neither Aarons nor Lewis had too much to do in the way of defending, playing very much in the opposition half. However, the boot has been on the other foot for much of this term and they've shown lapses in concentration and poor positional sense at times.
Combine that with issues at the other end of the pitch and the alarm bells have been well and truly ringing in Norfolk during the last couple of months of 2019. Teemu Pukki aside, there's been precious little goal threat when the flying Finn fails to hit the target. It's surely a recipe for relegation and explains why the Canaries are huge favourites in the Premier League outright odds for relegation. They ended the calendar year at the foot of the EPL, six points adrift of safety.
Canaries unlikely to take financial risks
The January transfer window doesn't look likely to provide any solace for the Canaries fans either. As a self-funded club that's always been financially prudent under the ownership of celebrity chef Delia Smith, Norwich are not a team that tends to speculate to accumulate. While that's a laudable trait, in the modern era of the EPL there is something to be said for investing and trying to go from the bottom rung of the ladder to the next step whilst avoiding yo-yoing back to the Championship.
Farke has to be applauded for putting his faith in the vast majority of the team that got him and the club to the highest level, but if Norwich go down as predicted, some supporters will wonder 'what if?'. What if the club had signed a few more battle-hardened Premier League operators? Would it have given the likes of Aarons and Lewis a chance to bed in more slowly at a higher level? Quite possibly. But few people in Norfolk will have a bad word said about Daniel Farke, whose undying commitment to his footballing principles has ensured there is never a dull moment on the Carrow Road terraces.body check tags ::