Opposition Closeup: Tactics, Daniel Farke, and Players to Watch
Welcome everyone, to the first (technically; as the Community Shield was the last game of last season) opposition piece for the 2019/20 EPL season. Farrell and I will look at a newly promoted Norwich City, who come to Anfield for the very first edition of Friday Night Football. I know some persons at this point are thinking “I miss Luis Suarez; we’d be sure of a hattrick tomorrow night”.
Players to Watch; Emiliano Buendia, Teemu Pukki
Emiliano at just 22+ has been a revelation since joining Norwich a year ago. The devastating Argentine winger stands tall on the field and is often the man Norwich turns to in order to lift them up. His ability to carry the ball and create for team-mates is unmatched in the Norwich squad.
On 30 June 2018, Teemu Pukki joined Norwich City on a free transfer, signing a three-year deal. He made his debut on 4 August, playing the full 90 minutes of a 2–2 draw at Birmingham City, and a week later he scored his first goal in a 4–3 home loss of West Bromwich Albion.
Pukki and Buendia
From January to February 2019, Pukki scored eight goals across six consecutive matches, ending with two goals in a 4–0 win at Bolton Wanderers. This run included two goals on 10 February in a 3–0 win over Ipswich Town in the Old Farm derby, with which he became the Finn with the most goals in a Championship season, overtaking former Ipswich player Shefki Kuqi’s 20 in 2004–05. In April 2019, Pukki was named the EFL Championship Player of the Season and was included in the 2018–19 Championship Team of the Season. He was also named Norwich City F.C. Player of the Season by Norwich City’s supporters for 2018–19 and received the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy.
This striker and winger need to be kept a very close watch on by the reds in order to avoid an upset under the floodlights at home.
Other Players to Note
Sporting director Stuart Webber has unearthed no shortage of bargains. Some have been feted – Pukki and playmaker Emi Buendía in particular – but there are several more. Marco Stiepermann joined in 2017 from Bochum as a left-back cover. He finished last season as an unconventional No 10 whose physicality and distance shooting consistently unsettled defenses. Tom Trybull was a free transfer from Den Haag but had claims to be the Championship’s best defensive midfielder, with league-leading interceptions and pass success in his position.
All in all, the reds should win this. Not saying it will be easy, but that this should be the first 3 points of the season.
Though Liverpool’s first competitive game of the season ended in defeat at the hands of Premier League incumbents, Manchester City, in a penalty shootout, there need be no concerns about how the result will affect Liverpool’s opening game against Norwich City.
Jürgen Klopp was adamant after the final whistle that the result wouldn’t affect the club’s season and that, despite a host of missed chances, the performance was encouraging.
“I’m completely happy about the full performance. I said before the game, if you want to be prepared for Man City you have to make a pre-season game against Man City; no team plays like them. You saw that in a few moments in the first half, when they can do what they do. We struggled a little bit positioning-wise but that’s normal.”
– Jürgen Klopp
Though Liverpool will have left Wembley disappointed not to kick off the season with silverware, there will be, in the grand scheme of things, many more opportunities in the months to come to collect more prestigious prizes. Following Liverpool’s first outing in the Premier League, Klopp’s men will face Chelsea next week in the UEFA Supercup.
But first, an old favorite for Liverpool fans, and ex-striker, Luis Suarez – Norwich City.
WHERE ARE NORWICH CITY NOW?
Kicking off the Premier League season on Friday, Liverpool face Championship winners, Norwich City.
Following a turbulent few years yo-yoing between the top two tiers of English football, the Canaries underwent a rebuild, with former Borussia Dortmund II head coach, Daniel Farke, becoming the Norfolk club’s first foreign manager.
A difficult first season for Klopp’s compatriot saw Norwich tumble down to 14th in the league, as the club adapted to Farke’s philosophy of quick, possession-based football, similar to that of his Dortmund II side.
The season after was a completely different story, with Norwich managing not only to improve their position in the table, but to top the league itself. Finishing the season with a 2-1 away win at Aston Villa, Farke’s Canaries lead the table with 94 points, matching a club record first achieved by Nigel Worthington’s title winners of 2004.
After a promising second season, defying the expectations of pundits across the country, fans will be hopeful of avoiding the drop this term after their three-year absence from the pinnacle of English football.
Farke’s positive, attacking football and win rate of 45.65% (league games only) with Norwich should go some way in reassuring the Carrow Road faithful of their Premier League credentials. Alex Neil, by comparison, managed a win rate of 41.26% over the course of his stint in charge, overseeing the club’s last return to the Premier League in 2015. Though, Farke does fall short of Paul Lambert’s 50.38% win rate, albeit accumulated across three seasons in charge.
DANIEL FARKE – KLOPP’S JOURNEY, GUARDIOLA’S PHILOSOPHY
Farke has admitted in a number of interviews that it was never his intention to become a football coach, let alone a manager, citing concerns about the lack of job security within the role. Prior to his retirement as a player, the German fancied himself as a Sporting Director following the end of his playing career. Farke felt that he could make a real impact in the position for the long-term, learning the intricacies of how football clubs are run.
As fate would have it, however, the former striker inevitably found himself on a coaching course following his retirement at 31. Farke later earned his chance with SV Lippstadt 08, albeit with the catch of leading the side, as its head coach, for the last ten games of the season. To Farke’s surprise, Lippstadt won nine of the ten fixtures.
“But I also thought: ‘This coaching is not too bad,’ and the players said: ‘We like working for you as a coach.’ And because it was only the fifth tier it was possible to do both jobs.”
– Daniel Farke
Though some will argue the similarities between Farke and Klopp, at least in terms of the pair’s humble beginnings, his playing style is more reminiscent of the man leading Liverpool’s main rivals, Manchester City – Pep Guardiola.
Farke did start small with German minnows, Lippstadt, a club he formerly played for. He took charge of the side for six years between 2009-2015, a period in which is generally acknowledged to be the most successful for the club, with Farke orchestrating Lippstadt’s rise from the sixth tier of German football to the fourth.
The former striker later took over Dortmund’s reserve side, impressing over the course of his two seasons at the helm. Failing to agree on contract talks after his last season, however, Farke and right-hand man Eddie Riemer took the opportunity to seek pastures new when Norwich City came knocking in 2017.
In Farke’s unveiling to the press at Carrow Road, Riemer weighed in on the Klopp comparisons.
“If you are speaking about David Wagner or Jurgen Klopp, I would say it is more like Thomas Tuchel or Pep Guardiola – but we will see!”
– Eddie Riemer
Norwich City Tactics
Fans from both Manchester and Liverpool may scoff at a perceivable generous exchange of comparisons, however, in terms of Farke’s footballing philosophy, the parallels between the German and Guardiola’s brand of possession-focused football are evident. Though, by Farke’s own admission, the club is still a way-off from emulating the Catalan’s style of football.
“I want our players to be protagonists on the pitch. I don’t like my teams just to be compact and to react, I like to act. I like to have the ball – if I could choose I would have the ball for 90 minutes. I want to create chances and dominate games… our main tactic is to work with the ball, to be in possession.”
– Daniel Farke
Under Farke, Norwich have favoured a 4-2-3-1, though the German believes tactical flexibility is an absolute must when on the pitch.
When in possession, Norwich tends to favor patient build-up play until an opportunity presents itself with either an option out wide from marauding full-backs or a potential vertical to one of the three attacking midfielders.
When the goalkeeper has the ball, one of the two defensive midfielders will often drop back in front of the centre-halves to help move play up the pitch.
Once play has transitioned into the opponent’s half, Norwich’s full-backs venture far and wide either side of the attacking midfield three. Where possible, one of the midfield three will drift wide as a full-back advances to help overload that particular side of the pitch and allow Norwich to outnumber their opponents.
Defensively, Farke’s side is particularly well-drilled, falling back into a 4-4-2/4-4-3 mid-block. In a low-block, depending on whether Norwich have committed both full-backs in their attack, one of the defensive midfielders (or full-backs) will drop back in between the centre-halves to solidify the defence.
With no disrespect meant, one can see how this tactic will have worked wonders against sides in the Championship and certainly will likely be successful against the smaller sides in the Premier League. However, it will be interesting how Farke’s tactics fare against the blisteringly quick counter-attacks of sides like Manchester City and Liverpool, particularly with a backline that looks exposed when caught high up the pitch.