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Season Preview 2022 – Part 4 27/07/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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NORWICH CITY

INS: Gabriel Sara (São Paulo, Undisclosed), Isaac Hayden (Newcastle United, Season Loan)

OUTS: Pierre Lees-Melou (Brest, €2.3 million), Dan Adshead (Cheltenham Town, Undisclosed), Rocky Bushiri (Hibernian, Undisclosed), Matt Dennis (Milton Keynes Dons, Undisclosed), Akin Famewo (Sheffield Wednesday, Undisclosed), Christoph Zimmermann (Darmstadt, Undisclosed), Josip Drmić (Dinamo Zagreb, Free), Josh Giurgi (Shelbourne, Free), Nelson Khumbeni (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Reece McAlear (Tranmere, Free), Flynn Clarke (Walsall, Season Loan), Bali Mumba (Plymouth Argyle, Season Loan), Przemysław Płacheta (Birmingham City, Season Loan), Christos Tzolis (Twente, Season Loan), Solomon Alidor-Hamilton, Olatunde Okeowo, Aston Oxborough, Lukas Rupp, Billy Gilmour (Chelsea, End of Loan), Ozan Kabak (Schalke 04, End of Loan), Mathias Normann (Rostov, End of Loan), Brandon Williams (Manchester United, End of Loan)

OUR EX-CANARIES: Rob Edwards

THEIR EX-ORNS: Craig Shakespeare (Assistant Head Coach)

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2021-22 0-3 3-1
2020-21 1-0 1-0
2019-20 2-1 2-0
2015-16 2-0 2-4
2014-15 0-3
2013-14 2-3
2010-11 2-2 3-2
2008-09 2-1
2007-08 1-1 3-1
2005-06 2-1 3-2
2003-04 1-2 2-1
2002-03 2-1 0-4
2001-02 2-1 1-3
2000-01 4-1 1-2
1998-99 1-1 1-1
1995-96 0-2 2-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Krul
Aarons           Hanley        Omobamidele     Giannoulis
McLean          Hayden
Rashica               Sara              Cantwell
Pukki

VERDICT: There are teams to whom nothing much happens at all.  Before their relegation out of the Football League this summer Oldham had experienced one promotion and three relegations since the mid seventies.  Derby’s relegation ended a thirteen season stint in the second tier whilst the Canaries’ not so near neighbours and friends Ipswich Town have had one relegation and no promotions in 20 years despite harbouring delusions of grandeur for much of that time.

Not so Norwich City.  Of the last fourteen seasons only four have seen them stay in the same division;  four sojourns to the top flight and one to the third tier and back have left them where they started that run.  Famously of course the last four seasons have been extraordinarily consistent as the Canaries have alternated either side of what appears to be their current centre of gravity somewhere between the top two divisions… 21st, 20th, 21st, 20th in the pyramid structure (with Teemu Pukki top scoring on each occasion).

To the uneducated and less invested the default expectation – with some rather unfair disdain, see rant coming later in this series – seems to be that Norwich will follow protocol and win the division again this season.  Locals aren’t quite so sure… a goal-shy side last term won’t have Emi Buendía to load the bullets for Pukki as they did two years ago.  There’s still quality and depth – the senior squad is huge – but Dean Smith doesn’t have the credit in the bank that Daniel Farke once had.  City should finish top six at least but if they quickly fail to follow form the knives will be out for Smith one suspects.

PRESTON NORTH END

INS: Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United, Undisclosed), Robbie Brady (AFC Bournemouth, Free), Ben Woodburn (Liverpool, Free), David Cornell (Peterborough United, Free), Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur, Season Loan)

OUTS: Tom Barkhuizen (Derby County, Free), Jack Baxter (Stafford Rangers, Free), Tom Bayliss (Shrewsbury Town, Free), Josh Earl (Fleetwood Town, Free), Joe Rafferty (Portsmouth, Free), Connor Ripley (Morecambe, Free), Ethan Walker (Blackburn Rovers, Free), Izzy Brown, Jacob Holland-Wilkinson, Mathew Hudson, Paul Huntington, Oliver Lombard, Joe Rodwell-Grant, Scott Sinclair, Jamie Thomas, Cameron Archer (Aston Villa, End of Loan), Daniel Iversen (Leicester City, End of Loan), Josh Murphy (Cardiff City, End of Loan), Sepp van den Berg (Liverpool, End of Loan)

OUR EX-LILYWHITES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2020-21 4-1 1-0
2010-11 2-2
2009-10 2-0
2008-09 2-1
2007-08 0-0
2005-06 1-2 1-1
2004-05 0-2 1-2
2003-04 2-0 1-2
2002-03 0-1 1-1
2001-02 1-1 1-1
2000-01 2-3 2-3
1997-98 3-1 0-2
1996-97 1-0 1-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Woodman
Storey                   Bauer                    Hughes
Potts               Johnson          Whiteman         Woodburn             Brady
Parrott               Riis

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: Preston were promoted to the Championship the season that we went up to the Premier League under Jokanovic and have spent the interim diligently avoiding attention in mid-table – save for one reckless gambol to within two points of the play-offs under Alex Neil.  There’s nothing wrong with being inconspicuous of course – this was a strategy that did us well for several years under the brighter glare of the Premier League lights and North End, as ourselves in the Premier League, have done well to drop anchor with a relatively modest budget.

It’s questionable whether this can continue.  Positive manager Ryan Lowe is a big plus, but the summer signings to date are punts rather than bankers.  Freddie Woodman is probably an exception,  his pedigree demonstrable after two strong seasons at Swansea (though he failed to make Bournemouth’s starting eleven in a half-season loan last year) – but he will do well to match the contributions of Leicester loanee Daniel Iversen over the last year and a half whilst Robbie Brady and Ben Woodburn are both punts in different ways. The side has been heavily dependent on Emil Riis in attack so the highly rated Troy Parrott needs to “work” and the squad isn’t the deepest.  A good season with injuries might see Preston slip into the shadows again and there’s too much quality to seriously struggle you suspect but a lower finish than the 14th that constitutes Preston’s worst since promotion seems quite plausible.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS

INS: Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea, Free), Kenneth Paal (PEC Zwolle, Free), Taylor Richards (Brighton, Season Loan), Tyler Roberts (Leeds United, Season Loan)

OUTS: Jordy de Wijs (Fortuna Düsseldorf, Undisclosed), Charlie Austin (Brisbane Roar, Free), Dom Ball (Ipswich Town, Free), David Marshall (Hibernian, Free), Moses Odubajo (Aris, Free), Charlie Kelman (Leyton Orient, Season Loan), Yoanne Barbet, Dillon Barnes, Lee Wallace, Keiren Westwood, Andre Gray (Watford, End of Loan), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle, End of Loan), Sam McCallum (Norwich, End of Loan), Dion Sanderson (Wolves, End of Loan)

OUR EX-RS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Les Ferdinand (Director of Football), Paul Furlong (U23s assistant coach), Micah Hyde (U18s head coach)

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2020-21 1-2 1-1
2013-14 0-0 1-2
2010-11 0-2
2009-10 3-1
2008-09 3-0
2007-08 2-4
2005-06 3-1 2-1
2004-05 3-0 1-3
2000-01 3-1 1-1
1998-99 2-1 2-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Dieng
Dickie              Dunne       Clarke-Salter
Kakay            Amos           Field               Paal
Chair            Willock
Roberts

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: No two situations are identical, admittedly.  You can’t look at Team A and Team B and say “well, they’re basically in the same position” at anything other than a superficial level because when it comes down to it the number of moving parts, the number of considerations, the volume of devil in the detail means that Team A and Team B aren’t quite the same at all.  Both might be strapped for cash, but the numbers, the assets, the ownership might differ in ways that are crucial in the medium term.  The teams might be similar – kind of solid, say, with one or two stars.  But Team A have theirs tied down to slightly longer contracts, whereas Team B’s star likes being a star rather too much.  And so on.

Nonetheless.  It’s not too long ago that we were a bit like the QPR of today.  Struggling manfully against the tide, Malky Mackay or Sean Dyche doing a sound job meant mid-table safety rather than seriously challenging clubs that were much more monied and/or much more stable (and also “Bigger” a lot of the time, that indefinable currency that fans of Big Clubs fall back on when their teams are shit at actual football).  QPR’s circumstances are, again, different… losing money hand over fist they need to find a crown jewel to sell on every year or two as it stands.  Of the current squad, Chris-brother-of-Joe-Willock  is one candidate, the ball-playing centre back Rob Dickie perhaps another but whilst there is talent in the side such that QPR can beat anyone on a good day – they took four points of us as we were promoted in 2021 – there isn’t anything like the depth or the attacking cutting edge to sustain a promotion challenge.

They were “there or thereabouts” last season before slipping back but that was more widely perceived as “reaching”… new head coach Michael Beale – who had some A-list coaching roles before this, his first foray as the number one – would surely regard another mid-table finish as a success after 13th, 9th, 11th in the last three campaigns.

READING

INS: Dean Bouzanis (Sutton United, Free), Sam Hutchinson (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Tom Ince (Stoke City, Free), Shane Long (Southampton, Free), Tyrese Fornah (Nottingham Forest, Season Loan), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United, Season Loan), Joe Lumley (Middlesbrough, Season Loan)

OUTS: James Holden (Cambridge United, Undisclosed), Brandon Barker (Omonia Nicosia, Free), Ethan Bristow (Tranmere Rovers, Free), Alen Halilovic (Rijeka, Free), Josh Laurent (Stoke City, Free), Michael Morrison (Portsmouth, Free), Andy Rinomhota (Cardiff City, Free), Lynford Sackey (Bolton Wanderers, Free), John Swift (West Brom, Free), Luke Southwood (Cheltenham Town, Season Loan), Jordan Addo-Antoine, Felipe Araruna, Marc McNulty, Ørjan Nyland, Malachi Talent-Aryeetey, Terell Thomas, Tom Dele-Bashiru (Watford, End of Loan), Danny Drinkwater (Chelsea, End of Loan), Baba Rahman (Chelsea, End of Loan)

OUR EX-ROYALS: Tom Dele-Bashiru, Ben Hamer

THEIR EX-ORNS: Andy Yiadom

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2020-21 2-0 0-1
2018-19 2-0
2014-15 4-1
2013-14 0-1 3-3
2011-12 1-2
2010-11 1-1
2009-10 3-0
2008-09 2-2 0-4
2006-07 0-0 2-0
2005-06 0-0 0-0
2004-05 0-1 0-3 3-0
2003-04 1-0 1-2
2002-03 0-3 0-1
1995-96 4-2

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Lumley
Yiadom                Holmes            Hutchinson            McIntyre
Hoilett          Fornah        Hendrick             Ince
Ejaria
João

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: I went to a school awards do this evening.  Proud Dad moment, definitely but… you know.  You can be a proud Dad and want to support your daughter but still regard and advertised three hours (eek) of polite clapping  with a degree of trepidation.  Add to that the necessity of squeezing two awards nights into one after evening one was postponed by yesterday’s stupid temperatures (writing a week before you read this) and you’ll appreciate the apprehension.

So realising, after 45 minutes, that we were pretty much halfway through the exercise gave the auditorium a huge boost.  You could feel it ripple through the crowd.  Suddenly everyone was applauding extra vigorously and after a mere 75 minutes the thing wrapped up and everyone left with a spring in their step.

And so we get to Reading.  The Royals endured a pretty miserable time last season finishing the season one place above the drop, albeit with a four point margin in the end despite a six point penalty for breaching EFL financial rules.  As the season ended much of the experience in the building headed out of it. Reading have had to rebuild a squad under further restrictions:  no transfer fees, loan fees, salary caps total, individual and average under a head coach in Ince who hadn’t really convinced anyone.

Expectations surely at an all time low.  At which point… things can only get better, and the green shoots of a solid structure pre-season, some halfway sensible signings coming in (albeit injury prone, veterans or kids as you might expect given the restrictions) and Reading fans seem less jaded than I expected.  They’ve got to expect to struggle and have holes to fill in midfield in particular with a very one-paced side as it stands, but the suggestion of a chance of staying up is better than none at all.

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