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Norwich City: BTSport.com's Premier League 2019/20 season preview

Norwich are back in the big time after storming to the Championship title under Daniel Farke. Having gone straight back down the last time they were promoted, the Canaries look well-equipped to establish themselves this time around.

Last season's Championship finish: 1st (W27 D13 L6 - F93 A57 - Pts 94)

Last season's top scorer: Teemu Pukki 29 - (30 in all competitions)

Not to be relegated*: 10/11

First five fixtures: Liverpool (A), Newcastle (H), Chelsea (H), West Ham (A), Man City (H)

Predicted finish (BTSport.com writers' combined prediction): 19th

Predicted finish by The Script19th

Transfers in: Ralph Fahrmann - Schalke (loan), Ibrahim Amadou - Sevilla (loan), Sam Byram - West Ham (£750k), Daniel Adshead - Rochdale (£300k), Josip Drmic - Borussia Monchengladbach (free), Patrick Roberts - Manchester City (loan), Archie Mair - Aberdeen (undisclosed), Rob Nizet - Anderlecht (undisclosed), Rocky Bushiri - KV Oostende (undisclosed), Aidan Fitzpatrick - Partick (£350k), Charlie Gilmour - Arsenal (free)

Transfers out: Marcel Franke - Hannover 96 (£1.4m), Tristan Abrahams - Newport County (free), Ivo Pinto - Dinamo Zagreb (free), Yanic Wildschut - Maccabi Haifa (free), Sean Raggett - Portsmouth (loan), James Husband - Blackpool (loan), Carlton Morris - Rotherham (loan), Josh Coley - Dunfermline (loan), Savvas Mourgos - Dordrecht (loan), Anthony Spyrou - Chesterfield (loan), James Husband - Blackpool (loan), Rocky Bushiri - Blackpool (loan), Nelson Oliveira - AEK Athens (free), Mason Bloomfield - Crawley Town (loan), Ciaren Jones - Eastbourne (loan), Josh Coley - Dunfermline (loan), Matt Jarvis, Steven Naismith (both released)

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Reasons to be optimistic

It’s only been four seasons since Norwich were last in the Premier League but lessons have been learnt and the 2019/20 team are unrecognisable from the side that were relegated under Alex Neil in 2015/16.

Sporting director Stuart Webber has orchestrated a major overhaul of the squad and only Timm Klose and Alexander Tettey remain from the relegation campaign. After clearing out the dead wood, Webber has assembled a young, hungry squad of players while working on a limited budget.

Christoph Zimmerman, Onel Hernandez and Marko Vrancic arrived from the German second division for nominal fees while Teemu Pukki has proved an inspired signing on a free from Brondby.

Emi Buendia has looked a special talent since joining from Getafe for just £1.4m – the Argentine is a tenacious, creative midfielder who adapted almost seamlessly to the physicality of the Championship.

Young full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis were both signed from Luton’s academy and were both named in last season’s Championship Team of the Year.

Webber’s recruitment has culminated in an eclectic squad of nationalities that has a strong German influence but also includes a Bosnian, a Cuban, an Argentine and a host of young English talent. Daniel Farke, former coach of Borussia Dortmund II, is the perfect fit to lead the group.

It’s an approach which differs from the other newly-promoted sides – Aston Villa splashing out £120 million while Sheffield United head into the top flight with an almost entirely British or Irish squad – but it’s worked emphatically. Norwich’s signing of Switzerland international Josip Drmic on a free transfer continues the bargain hunt theme.

If Pukki stays fit then scoring goals shouldn’t be much of a problem in the top flight. The Finn scored 29 last season but there were goals throughout the side, with four other players netting eight or more times. In total Norwich bagged 93, the most of any team since Bournemouth in 2014/15.

Reasons to be fearful ‚Äč

Despite storming to the Championship title with 94 points, Norwich are 10/11 second-favourites to go straight back down, with only Sheffield United available at shorter odds to get relegated.

The scepticism shown by bookmakers is due to suspicions over an inexperienced backline which leaked 57 goals last season – three more than ninth-placed Nottingham Forest.

The regular back four have an average age of under 22 years old and last season was the first time each of them had played a full campaign in the second tier. Rewind to 2017/18 and Ben Godfrey was at League One Shrewsbury on loan, Lewis and Aarons had yet to break into the team and Zimmerman was playing regional football in Germany.

So it’s been a rapid ascent and ex-Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul, one of the few players boasting Premier League experience, will need all his nous to help his young defence make the step up. Sam Bryam, a bargain at £750k from West Ham, is the only senior defender to arrive this summer.

It will be a baptism of fire for the defence too with Norwich travelling to Anfield for the Premier League’s curtain-raiser on Friday evening. Farke’s men also face Chelsea and Manchester City in their opening five so a sluggish start could leave the Canaries playing catch-up early on.

Key man: Teemu Pukki

The signing of the summer last season, Pukki was a revelation at Carrow Road. The forward admitted he was concerned “the Championship was all long balls” when he first arrived but he was quickly proved wrong.

Pukki was a seamless fit in Farke’s free-flowing approach and he would finish the season as top scorer in the Championship thanks to a combination of his ferocious work rate, intuitive runs and clinical finishing.

The striker netted eight in six matches between January and February during a pivotal run in the promotion push and Farke will be relying on his forward to repeat the trick in the top flight.

Swiss international striker Drmic has joined from Borussia Monchengladbach to bolster the manager’s options up front but he arrives with a chequered injury history. So it’s likely the bulk of the goalscoring burden will once again fall flatly on Pukki’s shoulders.

While Pukki might not hit 29 again this season, his skillset will stand him in good stead and his calmness in front of goal will prove invaluable in games where chances are at a premium. How quickly he adjusts will hold the key for Norwich’s success in the top flight.

The manager: Daniel Farke

25 August 2018 and Norwich have just been beaten 3-0 at home by Leeds to leave them 17th after five matches of the Championship campaign. The Canaries weren’t fancied for promotion after finishing 14th the season before and following a summer which saw key midfielders James Maddison and Josh Murphy sold to Premier League sides.

But suddenly it all clicked and Farke began getting a tune out of Norwich’s new-look squad. The Canaries won 13 of their next 18 matches and propelled themselves into the automatic promotion places, where they would remain for the rest of the season. “It’s a little miracle,” Farke reflected after Norwich sealed their spot in the top flight with a game to spare.

Like David Wagner at Huddersfield, Farke had arrived at the Championship from Borussia Dortmund’s reserve side. But the similarities with the defensive Huddersfield team of 2016/17 end there.

Norwich play with a fluid 4-2-3-1 under Farke that thrives in the transition between defence and attack. Players understand when to be patient and hold on to possession and when to play quicker vertical passes into the path of Pukki.

The demanding system places an emphasis on Aarons and Lewis bombing forward to support attacks and press the opposition. Players all across the pitch must know and fulfil their roles both with and without the ball.

While Wagner’s Terriers were promoted with a negative goal difference, Farke’s side were the great entertainers of the Championship, finishing with a +36 goal difference. They were involved in 4-3 scorelines on three separate occasions.

If last season’s rollercoaster ride continues into the Premier League, Farke’s Norwich will be a must-watch team for the neutral.

Fans' view - Jack Reeve - Talk Norwich City

"We’ve been in the Premier League recently but this feels different. Last time [in 2015/16] we started well, playing some expansive football, but we got thrashed 6-2 at Newcastle, changed our style and never recovered.

"This time we have much more solid foundations with Webber and Farke in charge. We are a bit of an unknown quantity and our style of football is going to catch some teams by surprise - hopefully that’ll be enough to win us matches.

"One of the things about last season was we were able to adapt and win games by playing more scrappy football. Farke’s ability to change things around mid-game when they weren’t working was invaluable.

"Whereas in 2015/16 a lot of our squad seemed just happy to collect their wages, now we have a lot of players with a lot to prove and who are ready to take their chance. Aarons and Lewis at full-back are so important to how we play and having Krul as an experienced figurehead behind them will be huge.

"Pukki will score goals in the Premier League. His movement is remarkable, his work rate is phenomenal and he’s one of the best finishers I’ve ever seen.

"Buendia’s ability on the ball could be a difference-maker too as long as he keeps his temper in check. He’s a number ten but he averaged the third-most tackles in the Championship last season.

"Of course there will be games where we get thumped and it’s not an easy start but going to Liverpool in the first match we will have no pressure on us. The Newcastle home game already feels big. Carrow Road can be a tough atmosphere to play in when players aren’t delivering so it’s important we get points on the board quickly."

*All odds correct with bet365 at time of writing

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