‘How do you think Norwich will do this year mate?’. A simple enough question for a City fan to answer right.
‘Mid table probably. Above Ipswich’, the almost automatic response.
So that’s that then right? Another season spent battling them down the road for the title of ‘slightly less shit team in East Anglia’.
Well no, actually, maybe not…
Normally with City, there’s a general consensus on which way the upcoming season will go. ‘They’re definitely gonna go up!’. ‘They’ll struggle this year.’. ‘Easy!’. ‘Difficult league.’. ‘Coming straight back down.’. ‘Going straight back up.’.
This year it’s about as easy to predict as the winner of an ‘I’m a Celebrity Love Island Masterchef’ special. Like a young England team heading to Russia, quite literally, anything could happen.
Hence the hedging your bets, jumping on the nearest fence prediction of mid-table mediocrity so favoured by bookmakers and pundits alike.
In actual fact, Daniel Farke and his band of Germans, youngsters and misfits could as easily make the playoffs as end up relegated. I – and I suspect I’m not alone here – actually have no idea how well they’ll do.
This is, after all, a team without parachute payments. Without its most profitable attacking outlets from last season. And without its star man.
But it’s also a side with a year’s Championship experience under their belts. With a manager who’s now – in theory – more equipped to deal with the English game. And with a striker who has a proven track record in the second tier. Finally.
So, playoffs it is then right?
Well, no… maybe.
Those now more experienced players and manager showed little last year to suggest they can improve much beyond a top half finish. That striker’s last good Championship season came three years ago…
So why the confidence of a mid-table finish?
Being honest, last year’s 14th place wasn’t good enough. Not even for a team in transition, cutting its cloth ever finer to match its increasingly sparse means. Not even for one embedding a new philosophy and integrating a new management structure.
Frankly finishing below Ipswich was embarrassing.
But a promising summer’s transfer activity has raised expectations. Tim Krul seems a sensible signing, inspired even if he can regain the form that made him a Premier League regular. Likewise Ben Marshall and Jordan Rhodes. Players who have been there and done it. And equally importantly, tick the box next to ‘homegrown player’.
Then there are the foreigners. The on-the-cheap gambles. Mo Leitner has at least tasted life at Carrow Road, but the likes of Felix Passlack and Emi Buendia may find the pace and physicality of the English leagues a struggle. How quickly they adapt could decide City’s success or lack of it.
Think more Christoph Zimmermann, less Marcel Franke.
At ‘Farke off Ipswich’ we’re slightly more optimistic than that. Being a Canary you have to be. We’re going with 8th place. In the playoff mix till April time. Playing a more attacking, but still possession-based style being more pleasing on the eye than the vintage of the ‘18 season.
But ultimately not quite experienced, strong or good enough.
Then again, they could be relegated at Christmas, demonstrators wanting Delia out, Farke and Webber in hiding, fearing for their lives.
It’s going to be one of those seasons.
Come On You Yellows!
Postscript: At least we’re not Ipswich. Given their bleak relegation odds, we should finish higher than our Suffolk neighbours. Possibly…
Here are ‘Farke off Ipswich’s’ predictions for the season ahead.
Final Position: 8th
Player of the Season: Kenny Maclean
Top scorer: Jordan Rhodes
League Winner: Middlesbrough
Relegated: Rotherham, Bolton, Reading
Farke to be in charge at the end of the season: Yes
What we want to see more of: Faster attacking football. Youngsters like Cantwell, Lewis and Godfrey playing a part. James Maddison in an England shirt.
What we want to see less of: Delia ‘acting’ in TV adverts.