Our series on the newly-promoted Premier League sides kicks off with this look at Norwich City’s goalkeepers and defenders.
In this article, we will assess the Championship title winners’ overall clean sheet potential and then have a look at some of the key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) players in their backline.
WHAT IS NORWICH CITY’S CLEAN SHEET POTENTIAL?
Norwich had the second-best defensive record in the Championship last season, having conceded 36 goals in 46 matches.
They kept 18 clean sheets, a solid total but some way short of Watford’s 23, with 11 of those shut-outs arriving at home.
The Canaries’ overall home and away record in 2020/21 was as follows:
The team accumulated the highest points total in the Championship since Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2018, which is encouraging, and their defending improved significantly last season compared to their 2018/19 success, when they shipped 57 goals.
Tactically, Farke remains wedded to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Within that framework, they like their defenders to play out from the back and as a result, averaged 58.3% possession last season, the highest total in the Championship.
Naturally, they will see much less of the ball in the Premier League, which is a concern and does suggest that we should monitor their backline in the opening weeks before even considering to invest.
Losing Oliver Skipp (£4.5m), who has returned to Tottenham Hotspur following a season-long loan deal, is a huge blow in the middle of the park.
The signing of Billy Gilmour (£4.5m) on a similar deal from Chelsea is a definite step in the right direction, but they will surely need further reinforcements for Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers to be tempted by any of their defenders.
Norwich’s early schedule between Gameweeks 1 and 4 is another reason to stay clear:
However, between Gameweeks 5 and 14 they sit top of our Season Ticker for ease of fixture, and have a lovely run of matches either side of Chelsea and Leeds United:
Having conceded a massive 75 goals when they finished bottom of the Premier League in 2019/20, Farke will know that they will need to tighten up this time if they are to stand any chance of avoiding relegation, but does he have enough quality at the back to succeed?
THE GOALKEEPER OPTIONS
No. 1 Tim Krul (£4.5m) played a big part in Norwich’s success last season and finished the campaign with the highest save percentage in English football’s top four divisions (80).
The Dutch international made 93 saves, kept 17 clean sheets and saved two penalties.
He will be kept busy next season, which does offer the prospect of additional FPL save points, but it’s worth noting that he will return to pre-season training late following his EURO 2020 involvement with the Netherlands.
It isn’t expected to keep him out of contention for any Premier League matches, but it does present an opportunity for new signing Angus Gunn (£4.0m) to impress in their forthcoming friendlies.
The 25-year-old, son of club-legend Bryan, returned to Norwich City from Southampton for an initial £2.5m last month. However, the deal is likely to end up costing the Canaries much more depending on which future clauses are triggered.
Upon Gunn’s capture, Farke said:
“He’s at a perfect age and full of potential. He’s proved he can play at the top level and was fantastic for us three seasons ago. He played almost each and every second for us and of course he has a huge identification and connection with the football club through his father. We’ve got two very experienced goalkeepers in Tim Krul and Michael McGovern and a young goalkeeper in Daniel Barden. Angus fits perfectly into this goalkeeping team.”
Having previously spent the 2017/18 campaign on loan at Carrow Road in the Championship, it won’t take long for Gunn to settle, but it does seem likely that he will have to bide his time and wait for opportunities.
Their final option, former Northern Ireland international Michael McGovern (£4.0m), is 36 now and expected to be third choice.
THE CENTRE-BACK OPTIONS
Grant Hanley (£4.5m) and Ben Gibson (£4.5m) is the current first-choice centre-back partnership, with the latter signing a permanent deal earlier this month after the club activated their option to buy from Burnley following promotion.
The pair complement each other well and performed key roles at the back in 2020/21.
Gibson’s passing ability is good and enables Norwich to play out from the back, while the experienced Hanley does carry a threat from set-pieces and may also do well for bonus points, providing Norwich can keep things tight.
His 211 clearances, 28 blocks and 77 interceptions were all team-leading totals last season.
It’s worth noting that he is currently nursing a hamstring strain that curtailed his EURO 2020 involvement but he is expected to be involved in the majority of pre-season.
City also have Christoph Zimmermann (£4.5m) as backup, and young Andrew Omobamidele (£4.0m). However, local press reports hint that the latter may depart on loan, which does suggest that Farke may need to add one or two more centre-halves to his squad in the coming weeks.
THE FULL-BACK OPTIONS
Max Aarons (£4.5m) is Norwich’s right-back and looks like the go-to-pick for FPL managers next season, should the Canaries prove to be a more defensively solid side than they did in 2019/20.
He is comfortably the most attacking option and often advances high up the pitch, carrying the ball from deeper areas.
Above: Max Aarons’ season heatmap 2020/21, via Sofa Score
The youngster provides an outlet on the right but no longer has Emiliano Buendía (£6.5m) operating in front of him, which is a blow. The Argentine is a creator who often drifts infield, with Aarons asked to provide the width. Can he replicate that partnership with new signing Milot Rashica (£5.5m)? Time will tell, but it’s a big ask.
In terms of Aarons’ attacking output, he scored twice and supplied two assists in 45 appearances last season; hardly inspiring figures, as was the case in the Premier League in 2019/20 (zero goals, two assists).
Aarons produced 28 shots last season, while his total of 61 key passes was second only to Buendía amongst team-mates.
He’ll hope to register more attacking returns in the future, but 1.4 key passes per 90 minutes is encouraging for a full-back. For context, Norwich’s left-back Dimitris Giannoulis (£4.5m) sits at 1.1. The 25-year-old joined on a permanent deal earlier this month after a successful loan stint in 2020/21, when he made the left-back spot his own.
Versatile full-back Sam Byram (£4.5m) impressed in the top flight back in 2019/20 and there are hopes he will finally feature again next season after being sidelined for 15 months because of a hamstring injury and other issues.
Finally, Jacob Sørensen (£4.5m) has been listed as a defender after covering at left-back but is actually a defensive midfielder. Unfortunately, he isn’t a regular starter, but it may be something to monitor if Norwich fail to bring in any further midfield recruits this summer.
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