Norwich City booked their place in the top flight for next season when they beat Blackburn Rovers 2-1 on Saturday. Here we take a look at the Canaries and what they will bring to the Premier League.
Last time Norwich were in the Premier League
Norwich’s last season in the top division was 2015-16, and in truth it wasn’t a huge surprise that they went down. They were promoted then thanks to a late-season run in the Championship after Alex Neil took over, and they almost certainly weren’t ready to go up. They made some rash decisions in the transfer market, most notably paying £8.5 million to Steven Naismith, and while a few late-season wins gave a little hope, ultimately they dropped after a single campaign.
Who’s the manager?
Sporting director Stuart Webber arrived at Norwich in 2016, and when he needed to appoint a manager the following year, he repeated what had proved so successful at his previous club, Huddersfield.
Webber had appointed David Wagner from Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team, and he promptly took Huddersfield to the Premier League. Daniel Farke succeeded Wagner at Dortmund, and Webber was soon going back to BVB for his Norwich appointment.
Farke’s methods took a little while to take hold, and after a disappointing finish of 14th place in his first season there were plenty of Norwich fans calling for his removal. But the club kept faith and it paid off in fine style, as the side settled in the automatic promotion places in November and stayed there for the rest of the season.
Farke has a quiet intensity about him, not the sort of manager you can easily imagine flipping tables or throwing things around the dressing room, but one who exerts his authority over time and in more subtle ways. He talks about wanting his players to be protagonists on the pitch, to be proactive rather than reactive, something that has worked brilliantly this season.
For some, Norwich are most famous for being owned by celebrity chef Delia Smith. She, along with her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, became a majority shareholder in 2003, a reassuring constant in years of flux for a side who have bounced between the top two tiers, even slipping into League One in 2009.
Norwich have won two major trophies in their 117-year existence — the League Cup twice in 1962 and 1985 — but arguably their most glorious years came when they challenged Manchester United for the first Premier League title in 1992-93. Then, after finishing third, they beat Bayern Munich in the following season’s UEFA Cup. Jeremy Goss remains a hero in Norfolk for his sensational volley to set up victory in Munich, though they were knocked out in the next round by an Internazionale team that featured Giuseppe Bergomi and Dennis Bergkamp.
Teemu Pukki, a free transfer from Brondby who exemplified their smart recruitment strategy last summer, has been their top scorer and has 28 league goals, while young defenders Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis have been crucial in the second half of the season.
However, perhaps their most important man is Emi Buendia, an Argentine attacking midfielder who can play anywhere across the line behind the striker. His dynamism and creativity has driven Norwich on many occasions this season, and it’s not a coincidence that they haven’t won a game without him being on the field at some point. Buendia was another recruit last summer, joining the Canaries from Getafe for around £1.5m.
How do they play?
Norwich like to dominate possession, control games and create dozens and dozens of chances. They’re the sort of team who like to impose their own style on a game rather than reacting to how their opponents play. For most of this season they have operated in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and perhaps their key strength is they haven’t relied on any one particular player, with various members of their squad slotting in when others have been unavailable.
Their other most notable quality is their habit of scoring late goals: 30 times they’ve found the net in the last 15 minutes of games, which has led to some frantic comebacks and is a consequence of their collective fitness and relentless attacking style.
Expectations for 2019-20
Webber has already said that they will be prudent in the transfer market, so don’t expect £20m signings in the summer. It will be fascinating to see how their approach, which has been so successful in the Championship, translates to the Premier League. They are smart in the transfer market, but lots of teams are, and most of those have greater resources behind them. While they have been able to impose their will on teams in the second tier, doing so against some of the giants in the Premier League will be more difficult.
As ever, survival will be the aim, but even if they do only last one season back, their sensible approach means they will be well set for the future.