After a three year absence, Norwich City are back in the Premier League; a club rebuilt with a fresh young squad, a new philosophy, and a management team intent on delivering an exciting attacking brand of football.
Promotion as Champions really did catch out almost every Norwich City supporter. An underwhelming 14th placed finish the season before, and only 49 goals scored in 46 games. Star man James Maddison, who almost single-handedly kept the team out of a relegation battle that season, was sold to Leicester City in pre-season for big money in a deal which sporting director Stuart Webber claimed saved the club from a serious financial situation. In his place, free transfers and bargain finds were signed as the scouts behind the scenes attempted to unearth a gem or two, and to say they managed to do that would be the understatement of the year.
It will be a brand new challenge for the vast majority of the current Norwich squad next season, as the many young talents now involved in the first team and overseas recruits over the last two years have not experienced Premier League football before. In fact, you’d need to go back to February to find the last occasion in which Norwich started an outfield player with any Premier League experience at all (which was incidentally the last time NCFC were beaten), with goalkeeper Tim Krul being the one exception.
Main Man Pukki
In terms of FPL, naturally many people will turn their attentions to Teemu Pukki. 29 goals (with no penalties included) in 43 games, as well as nine assists, was a phenomenal return from a player very little was expected of after his free transfer from Brondby. But he is the out-and-out focal point of this attacking Norwich team, and a guaranteed starter when the season gets underway. It’ll be interesting to see how he is priced in FPL, and at 6.0m or under, coupled with some kind early season fixtures, he could tempt many managers to take a punt from the off.
Norwich will try and continue their attacking brand of football in this Premier League campaign, especially against teams they’ll expect to be competing with a bit further down the table, and after finding the net 93 times on their way to the Championship title you’d have to believe that they’ll be a side who won’t suffer goal droughts for too long. And with Pukki spearheading this attack, he is sure to be involved in a number of goals once more.
Bargain FPL Midfielders
It’s in midfield where the real bargains could be found. Emi Buendia, a virtual unknown before a ball was kicked this season, turned out to be an absolute star in this Norwich side, and appears capable of looking completely at home in the top flight next season. Buendia’s importance to the team is affirmed by the fact Norwich did not win any of the eight games he didn’t feature in during the season. He racked up 20 attacking returns over the campaign (8 goals, 12 assists), and was entrusted regularly with corner taking from both the left and right, as well as free kicks from out wide.
It’s also Buendia’s work rate, tenacity and ball recovery which made him a firm fans favourite over the past year. Despite not being the biggest in stature he is fearless and determined, and his efforts aside from creating and scoring goals could really provide good bonus point potential in the coming season. He is one for the early watchlist if priced at £5.0-5.5m.
The other midfielders worth keeping an eye on are Marco Stiepermann, Onel Hernandez and Mario Vrancic. Stiepermann finished the season with 9 goals from his 43 games, and was pivotal in his attacking midfield role. Hernandez, after a quiet first outing in 17/18, really came to life last season and his 17 attacking returns (8 goals, 9 assists) cannot be dismissed.
The really interesting one is Mario Vrancic. A very tidy footballer with an unerring eye for goal, particularly from distance, he found himself out of the team for a long spells after injury, having had his place taken by others who proceeded to consistently perform well. Vrancic found 10 goals and 7 assists from just fourteen starts, although 22 appearances from the bench also provided him with minutes to build up those returns. If Mario can find himself back in the regular starting XI he is very much worthy of consideration, although it would be advised to wait and see if he cements a place first, rather than including him from the first gameweek.
The one real concern going into this PL campaign is defensively. If the league table was ordered by fewest goals conceded, Norwich wouldn’t have even made the play-off’s last season. On 16 occasions they conceded 2+ goals in a match, and this will need to be addressed ahead of the new season. This should not take anything away from the personnel who feature in that backline though, a defence which regularly included three players aged 21 or younger, and captained by 26 year old Christoph Zimmermann, a centre back who until he signed for Norwich in 2017 had only ever played in the German lower leagues.
The talent and potential of all four of these players though is staggering, with full backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis receiving the most attention so far from the outside looking in, due to their high level of performance at right and left back respectively. Aarons in particular is the one, from an FPL perspective, who looks as if he could provide those sporadic attacking returns we crave for in our defensive selections. I would suggest unless you have a 2nd/3rd bench spot to fill from the start, give this defence a watch for a couple of weeks before diving in and picking one for your teams.
Big thank you to FPL TheAdam for writing a great article, be sure to follow him on Twitter for FPL advice!