Norwich 19/20 Review: Farke's entertainers falling just short
The Premier League is currently on hiatus, so we decided to review each club's 2019/20 season so far. Next up is Norwich, who are rock bottom of the table but not without hope of survival...
It's rare that a club rock bottom of the Premier League can be relatively satisfied with their season, and while Norwich City clearly hoped to survive the drop, few supporters will feel aggrieved by how things have gone so far.
They could still stay up, of course, although it would take five wins from the final nine league matches do so. The fact that the greatest of great escapes doesn't feel entirely out of the question is testament to Norwich's entertaining style of football and their general competitiveness throughout the campaign.
Daniel Farke can be proud of his side's performances, even if results have ultimately fallen short.
Season so far
From the outset Norwich's aestheticism caught the eye, and indeed within that opening day 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield we saw everything that would define their season. Farke's side were progressive, entertaining, and creative, but unfortunately playing in that way means sacrificing the defensive compactness needed at this level.
Liverpool tore through them, as so many others would in 2019/20. Norwich have conceded the second most goals (52) in the division.
Like Blackpool or Swansea City before them, Norwich quickly learnt that expansive football can only work in the Premier League if there is momentum behind it. As soon as the defeats started to stack up, confidence dropped and Norwich stopped creating so many chances. They have been in the bottom three almost constantly since the first weekend of the campaign.
Farke has remained resilient throughout, and Norwich are still one of the best teams to watch in the bottom half of the table, thanks in no small part to some wonderful performances from Todd Cantwell.
However, when Teemu Pukki stopped scoring - he has three in his last 13 starts - it became apparent Norwich probably don't have enough quality in the final third to avoid relegation.
Should Norwich leave the Premier League this year, the fans will at least go back to the Championship with some cherished memories, most notably a stunning 3-2 victory over Manchester City at Carrow Road.
Pep Guardiola's side were on an 18-match unbeaten run at the time while the Canaries were missing eight players, and yet somehow they recorded a famous victory in front of an ecstatic home crowd. It was an extraordinary performance and richly deserved win, but sadly Norwich just couldn't build on it.
Cantwell and Max Aaron's ability to step up seamlessly to Premier League level has been a joy to watch, while Norwich fans are unlikely to forget a penalty shootout victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the FA Cup fifth round.
The only time Norwich were embarrassed in 2019/20 was a 5-1 home defeat to Aston Villa, a result which in many ways changed the mood irreversibly. So soon after losing to both Burnley and Crystal Palace, all the optimism from the Man City triumph evaporated that day.
What they can achieve in 19/20
Five wins from nine isn't impossible, not after an extended break that allows Norwich to refocus and forget the litany of defeats through the season so far. After all, their remaining fixtures include Southampton, Everton, Brighton, West Ham, and Burnley all at Carrow Road.
In the FA Cup, Norwich have drawn Manchester United at home, suggesting - as if it was needed - that they stand very little chance of lifting the trophy. Their odds of winning the tournament are currently44.00 with Betfair Exchange.
What next: Summer transfers & 2020/21
Assuming Norwich go down, they are very well placed to win the Championship and bounce straight back up stronger, and more experienced, than before. Farke certainly won't be sacked, and unless he is poached that means more diligent and stylish tactics that are well-suited to the second tier of English football.
However, the Canaries must brace themselves for losing Aarons and Cantwell, while Pukki is just the sort of player a newly promoted club will look to poach.
At the risk of sounding patronising, Norwich fans will have enjoyed the journey of the 2019/20 season whatever the outcome. That's largely because they play attractive football, winning plaudits wherever they go, and because they have been competitive in the vast majority of matches.
Farke has done a good job despite the likelihood his side will finish at the foot of the table. Norwich's season cannot be labelled a success, but failure is certainly too strong a word.
Whether because of injury or simply an inability to adapt, only one of Norwich's 11 summer signings has played a significant part in their season. Sam Byram hasn't exactly sparkled, either, and ultimately the club's inability to strengthen a Championship squad has led to their downfall.