Daniel Farke has said he is a “happy man” as Norwich City gear up for their shot back in the Premier League, with their hopes pinned on some fresh faces and familiar names in the Championship title winners’ ranks.
The Canaries manager steered the club to promotion with an exciting brand of football that he hopes will work at a higher level, and he told the assembled media at the freshly branded Lotus Training Centre that he is satisfied with where the club stand heading into the season.
Credit for Webber
Speaking ahead of Friday night’s opening tussle with Champions League holders and last term’s Premier League runners-up, Liverpool, Farke gave credit to the transfer strategy of Stuart Webber, the club’s Sporting Director.
Webber has overseen the signings of Josip Drmic and Sam Bryan, alongside loan deals for Patrick Roberts, Ralf Fährmann and, latterly, Ibrahim Amadou who joined the club this week, all of whom will provide a boost to the side and go some way to bridging the Premier League-Championship gap.
Farke said “In general, I'm a happy man. We're back in the Premier League and we'll work with what we've got. Stuart Webber has done an amazing job in the window.
“As a head coach, you always want to sign a striker for £40 million. But I'm happy with the business we've done.”
"We can keep our best players"
As well as the new arrivals, Norwich have also negotiated contract extensions for many of their leading lights from the promotion season, including Kenny McLean, Emi Buendia, Teemu Pukki and wonderkid Max Aarons, and Farke said this was another clear sign of progress for the Canaries.
He said “We were under lots of financial pressure in the past. We have a situation now where we can keep our best players.
“We have to work with many young lads and be a bit more creative and smarter in our recruitment...[The] most important thing is [a] player fits in to our style and our personality. And we have to be able to afford him!”
Norwich face a tough start to the season, with Chelsea and title holders Manchester City both visiting Carrow Road, and a visit to established Premier League club West Ham United within the first month.
But first up, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool await the Canaries at Anfield, the Reds buoyed by landing European football's biggest prize and running the Pep Guardiola juggernaut at Manchester City to within a point of the title, the 97 points they gained more than enough to be crowned Champions in most seasons.
"The toughest task you can get"
Farke recognises that, as with the overall season, his side will be written off in many quarters, but he relishes the challenge, which is the prize for the promotion season last time out, and he won't drastically change their approach.
The German said "Liverpool is the toughest task you can get. The focus will be on this game and the first time they are back at Anfield after the Champions League final. They will be pretty focused - they are one of the best teams in the world.
"We know we are underdogs but we want to be at our best. We know we are favourites for position 20 in the league. But everyone said we needed to spend loads of money last year, we broke rules last season and we want to make more rules this season.
"For me the most important thing is that we stick to our principles. We want to go with our style and stick to our beliefs."
Zimmermann and Klose out
Farke addressed the injury concerns facing his side, with countryman Christoph Zimmerman not ready to return from the injury that has kept him sidelined during pre-season.
Timm Klose is also unfit but will be back in training next week after recovering from a hip problem, while Alex Tettey is not yet match-fit and new signing Amadou will have to wait for his debut, leaving Farke with just two centre-backs to choose from for the contest.
The Canaries boss exuded optimism, however, and knows his side will give their all from first kick to last.
Farke said "We will go into each and every game to win. We will fight in each and every minute and I will always protect my players, as long as they give everything.
"We have to climb Mount Everest again. One thing is for sure, we will stick together."