DIFFERENT IS GOOD…ISN’T IT?

21/07/17

Andrew Lawn doesn't know what to expect from this season, but that's exactly why he is so excited. This is a new Norwich. Will it be successful? Who knows. It'll be fun finding out though.

Financially, this season feels like the most important in Norwich City's history, although given the current TV rights trend, that would be true of every season.

Regardless, this is an important campaign for the future of our club.

As such, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is not the time for experimenting with new ways of doing things. You might prefer an approach that is deemed "tried and tested". You know the sort of thing; 442, a team stocked with "experienced Championship performers" who are "battle hardened", and "know what is required on a rainy Tuesday night in Bolton". You might even want players who have "been there and done it before". In essence, you want last season's approach.

Rewind 12 months and that is, almost, exactly what City went with. Albeit not 442 (but a rigid 4231), Norwich approached the campaign with a battle-hardened, been-there-before, squad who knew what was required to win at Bolton (not that we played Bolton last season of course, although a good number remained from that last-gasp win under Alex Neil two years earlier).

It didn't work.

That's not to say there is not the clamour for the same approach now. Take the recent Fans Forum, put on to raise money for the Community Sports Foundation, where an audience member regurgitated an oft-repeated line from media and social media circles;

"The departures of Frankie McAvoy and Dean Kiely means there are no coaches who have experienced the Championship, or what is required to win at Burton, Rotherham or Bolton. Are we looking to solve that problem?"

The response came from Stuart Webber and was clear, concise and nailed the point;

"I think we have somehow built a myth up about English football, that isn't accurate. Last season Norwich had a British coaching staff and a primarily British squad and how did you get on a Rotherham and Burton? You lost. Huddersfield meanwhile had an entirely foreign coaching staff and a primarily foreign playing staff. How did they get on at those places? They won both. We have foreign coaches yes, but they are just as capable as British coaches of analysing the opposition. Just because they are aren't British doesn't mean they don't know what to expect when we go to Portman Road".

Cue whistling and the sound of missiles being launched, followed by audience laughter.

The point of all of this is to illustrate the fact that there is no tried and tested approach to getting out of the Championship. If there was, everyone would be doing it.

The obvious solution is to try and buy your way out. Aston Villa, much to everyone's amusement, found out last season there are no guarantees to be found in a cheque-book, however capacious. Even when signing players who had been successful at this level previously, Villa's promotion push resembled a fat man stuck behind a gated wall they were too chubby to climb. Yesterday they announced the signing of Chris Samba, so at least they've learned something...

You can try and dominate possession like Fulham and Reading, who topped the leagues average for possession did and missed out in the Play-Offs, or you can go aerial like Mick's Ipswich, Wolves and Cardiff (the top 3 for aerial success) and really miss out.

You can hire proven managers (Villa again courtesy of Steve Bruce) or try big names (see Birmingham's brief unsuccessful dalliance with Gianfranco Zola), or bring back former heroes (QPR and Ian Holloway) all to no effect.

Take the two sides who won automatic promotion as proof of how contrasting the league is. Champions Newcastle went attacking, topping the league for shots on target per game (Norwich were second). Meanwhile Brighton had less shots on target per game than Bristol City, Barnsley and Brentford, but built success on a solid defence and an effective offside trap, catching their opponents more often than any other side. Different styles, same result.

So with no obvious route to success, there seems little harm in what Webber and Farke are trying to do, namely something completely new. The formation is new, the personnel are largely new, the philosophy is new, the back room is new - everything has been torn up and we're starting again.

How many among us wanted exactly that to happen last season when the same failures were being repeated week-in, week-out by players who had previously been-there and done-that? Who saw the same names listed on Twitter every Saturday City were away from home and were filled with an ominous certainty that today would be no different to the last away day?

Will the new approach work? Who knows? But it's a damn sight more exciting, thoughtful and optimistic than appointing Harry Redknapp and offering lucrative contracts to every England veteran without one.

Never mind the danger.

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