Norwich City was the dominant force in the Championship last season, making an immediate return to the Premier League after being relegated season before last. Manager Daniel Farke, who took over the club in 2017, has been the catalyst behind promotion into the English top-flight for the second time in recent years.
The last time the Canaries played in the EPL, they failed to consistently score goals despite playing an attacking style of football. They were left bottom of the table, fourteen points from safety. However, they rebounded quickly, winning the Championship title last term, which convinced the club to extend Farke a new four-year contract.
“I’m absolutely over the moon and feel pretty emotional in such a moment. I’m unbelievably grateful for all of the trust and support. Now it’s about going the next step, doing everything we can to make sure this club becomes an established Premier League side. We’re in a much better position, both as a club and as a group, and we want to continue to build something unique and special.”
Last Season (2020-21 Championship)
Farke guided the Canaries to his second Championship trophy on the back of a club-record 97 points in England’s second tier, clinching promotion with five games to spare. They won 29 games, drew 10, and suffered 7 defeats in 46 league matches played. They were just as good away from home as at Carrow Road too, taking 48 points from home matches and 49 on the road (grain of salt: The absence of fans due to Covid played havoc with “home advantage” almost everywhere last season).
Six Norwich players were included in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, (Tim Krul, Max Aarons, Grant Hanley, Oliver Skipp, Emi Buendia and Teemu Pukki), plus Farke was named LMA Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Year.
Norwich City’s masterind has transformed the core goal at Carrow Road. How? One word: possession. Norwich had more possession than any other team in the Championship (60.9%). But the Canaries don’t just play horizontally and safe; they also attempted the second-highest number of progressive passes per 90 minutes (75.01).
But while they led the league in terms of xG (78.99) at one point, they weren’t clinical enough to match reality to expectation. Daniel Farke faced a similar problem when he was relegated last time, and this could again spell trouble.
The German manager prefers to setup his team in a 4-2-3-1, which allows him to get all of his most creative players, such as Todd Cantwell, Kieran Dowell and Emiliano Buendia (sold to Aston Villa this summer for a club-record transfer fee of £38m) onto the pitch.
However, Norwich also attempts build-up in a 3-2-5, with one of the fullbacks staying back while the other moves forward. Alternatively, if both fullbacks stay high and wide, one of the central midfielders will drop into the defensive line to cover the gap.
The Canaries constantly try to find the space between the lines through their attacking players, and their narrow positioning puts them in a good spot to create dangerous passes that they hope will ultimately produce goals.
However, it is their play off the ball that will be a concern, especially when they play higher quality opponents. They will not have as much of the ball against teams in the EPL, and laying back while pressing for the counter is not their forte. Their lack of intensity in challenges and pressing in the middle of the park has been criticized, as there seemed to be insufficient emphasis on regaining the ball quickly in the center of the pitch. In the top flight, the Canaries will likely be made to pay for weaknesses like these.
The Canaries will be without key player Oliver Skipp now that his loan from Spurs has ended. Skipp was the architect of many Norwich attacks, springing Cantwell and Buendia with incisive through balls. And in all honesty, Emilliano Buendia would have been the first name on my Norwich fantasy watch list, but the Norwich MVP who scored 15 goals and had 31 goal contributions last season was sold to Villa this summer. That’s two big hits for Daniel Farke’s side.
But the Canaries have used the £38M from Buendia’s sale wisely, bringing in Angus Gunn (Southampton, £5m), Milot Rashica (Werder Bremen, £8m), Billy Gilmour (loan from Chelsea) and Pierre Lees-Melou (OGC Nice, £3.5m).
On top of that, purchase options were triggered on Ben Gibson (Burnley, £8m) and Dimitris Giannoulis (PAOK, £6m), when their loans converted to permanent contracts upon Norwich’s promotion to the Prem.
That’s six new players in; only Watford, with nine, has done more incoming transfers.
Norwich has the toughest possible start to the campaign, facing Liverpool, Man City, Leicester and then Arsenal FC in the first four game-weeks. That will surely dent interest in Canary fantasy assets before GW-5, but let’s look at a few who could be viable fantasy options later when the match-ups less daunting (and prices may have been shaved).
The analyses below are for FPL. For Fantrax, watch to see who benefits from the broader point system to return value even in losing causes. Also expect extreme price volatility (e.g. prices may drop to the minimum) after GW-1.
Teamu Pukki, forward (£6.0M)
The striker scored 26 goals in the Championship last season, all from inside the box (19 RF, 6 LF and 1 head). He also provided four assists.
Everybody remembers the “Pukki party’” when Norwich first returned to the Premier League last time. The Finnish striker was scoring for fun in the first few weeks of the campaign, but top-flight teams quickly “solved” him, and he cooled. Consistency will be critical to his fantasy value this time around, and it will worry fantasy managers that last season he missed 22 big chances.
Nevertheless, at £6.0M Pukki is among the best budget forward options in the game this season.
Todd Cantwell, midfielder (£5.5M)
We can expect Cantwell to take charge of the void Buendia has left. The talented winger is a certain starter, but with just six goals and six assists in the Championship last season, he’ll need to find a sharper edge to put up attractive fantasy numbers in FPL.
Milot Rashica, midfielder (£5.5m)
At the very least, club-record signing Rashica should be a decent asset for your fantasy bench. The Kosovo winger has raw talent and decent fantasy potential but will take time to adjust to the Premier League. But in all honesty, Norwich isn’t flush with attack-minded players, so Rashica should be a guaranteed starter even from the beginning. He also has set pieces in his locker.
Billy Gilmour, midfielder (£4.5m)
Gilmour will be the Skipp replacement. Gilmour was exceptional for Scotland in the European championship this summer, especially against England where he was handed the Man-of-the-Match award for his brilliant performance. Despite his inability to win minutes at Stamford Bridge, his technical skills, game intelligence, and awareness will be a massive help. For £4.5M he makes an excellent fantasy bench enabler.
Max Aarons, defender (£4.5m)
Aarons could be a decent shout for one of your £4.5m defenders. A regular starter, he had 45 appearances and managed to keep 17 clean sheets last season, also contributing two goals plus two assists.
Credit Norwich just for securing an immediate return to the Premier League. But whether the club stays up this time or once again goes one-and-done remains to be seen. Farke will have to adjust to having less of the ball and absorbing pressure before attacking on the counter. His attackers must also become more clinical in front of goal — in the top flight they can’t afford to miss chances. Pukki will need to step up and deliver, and Gilmour and Rashica will need to fill the massive gaps left by Oliver Skipp and Emi Buendia (and possibly Todd Cantwell).
Do you think Norwich City will stay up this season?
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What do you think of Norwich’s fantasy assets? Are there players that you could add to your squad? What player do you think will shine for the Canaries? Do you think Norwich will be a success in the Premier League this time? Please answer the poll and then let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!