After relegation from the Premier League last season, Norwich city were expected to lose many of their key players and have a massive rebuild on their hands if they were to return to the pinnacle of English football.
Despite returning to the second tier, the Canaries hierarchy put faith in German manager Daniel Farke and backed the 44-year-old in the transfer market in a bid for an immediate return to the top flight.
Summer transfer business
Norwich were inevitably going to lose players after the relegation back to the Championship. The East Anglian side sold Ben Godfrey to Everton for a reported £25 million and left-back Jamal Lewis to Newcastle United for £15 million. After recruiting up to £40 million alone on the two youngsters, the Norwich board gave Farke the funds to improve his side.
Farke brought in 10 new faces over the summer with many having previous Championship experience which is vital in order to gain promotion from the division. Jordan Hugill, Kieran Dowell, and Ben Gibson all joined the Canaries with Hugill and Dowell signing on a permanent basis whilst Gibson on a loan until the end of the season.
As well as experienced Championship players, Norwich invested in young foreign talent. Winger Przemyslaw Placheta joined the club from Slask Wroclaw for £2.7 million, with the Polish youngster highly rated in his homeland. Promising Danish midfielder Jacob Sorensen joined the club from Esbjerg fB for £1 million, whilst Oliver Skipp joined on loan from Tottenham Hotspur as the Canaries beat many Championship sides and a couple of Premier League sides to win the 19-year-old's signature.
Norwich's best business in the summer window was keeping hold of players such as Emi Buendia, Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons. The trio excelled in the top flight and all had interest from Premier League sides as well as top European teams such as Athletico Madrid and Bayern Munich but decided to stay at Carrow Road.
One foot in the Premier League?
With 21 games to go, Farke and his side sit six points clear of second-placed Swansea City and third place Watford with a game in hand over the Hornets. Buendia has been the star performer for the Canaries this season. The 24-year-old has made 21 appearances contributing seven goals and six assists with the Argentine winning six man of the match awards in the process.
Finland international striker Teemu Pukki has carried on from his last Championship campaign where he bagged a staggering 29 league goals. In his 19 league starts, Pukki has scored 11 goals, making him the club's top scorer once again. As of late, Norwich's number 22 has been struggling with injury, but will be looking to add to his tally upon his return to first team action.
One player who has gone under the radar for the Canaries is Sorensen. The 22-year-old joined in the summer initially to play in central midfield. However, good form from midfielders Kenny McLean and Lukas Rupp, plus an injury to usual left-back Xavi Quintilla, saw Sorensen fill in on the left-hand side of the defence.
After his magnificent display against Bristol City, manager Farke said: “[it was] the best performance by a left-back in the Championship this season.”
Following the departure of Lewis, it was always going to be a tough role to fill. However, the young Dane has made the position his own and will be looking to maintain his place despite the signing of Greek full-back Dimitrios Giannoulis from PAOK.
Farke's side have look untouchable at times and have been one of the most consistent sides in the league. Norwich have won 16 games in the league this season which is three more than any other side. They went on a 10 game unbeaten run from the middle of October to the start of December, which is the second-longest of any side in the league this season. In the 17 games that Farke's men have scored first, they have proceeded to win 15 on occasions and draw the remaining two games.
The Canaries home form this season is one of the main reasons they sit top of the tree. Norwich have won eight times at home this season, drawing another four and losing just the once to Wayne Rooney's Derby County. For large spells of the game against the Rams, the Canaries dominated with star striker Pukki missing a penalty which would have maintained their unbeaten home record this season.
Despite their impressive title winning season in 2018/19, Norwich are five points better off at this stage of the season. Should Farke and his side keep gaining points, they could be set to emulate their success of that season and potentially even beat their points tally of 94.
Despite the transfer window closing on Monday, Norwich will have a battle on their hands to keep hold of Cantwell and Buendia with Leicester City and Arsenal circling around the wingers. If the Canaries manage to keep hold of their prized assets, promotion could be that one step closer for the East Anglian club.
Many sides that have been in around the top two in the Championship at this stage have crumbled. As recent as the 2018/19 season, Leeds United were destined to end their long wait for Premier League football until their form dipped towards the back end of the season and eventually lost to Derby in the play-offs.
The key for Farke and his side now is to mirror their performances and results from their first 25 league games. Before the end of the season, his side still have to face the other five sides in the top six and picking up points from their promotional rivals will put them on the brink of glory.