There will be some familiar faces in the Premier League next season. Plenty of them, in fact.
Norwich City’s return to the top flight was confirmed when Swansea City and Brentford both drew Saturday. The Canaries lost 3-1 to Bournemouth later in the day, but with an insurmountable 14-point cushion in the Championship’s promotion places, it made no difference.
The club can still win the Championship title for the second time in three years.
And not a great deal has changed. Norwich’s ascent is largely fueled by the goals of Teemu Pukki (25 strikes in 38 outings), all-around attacking brilliance of Emiliano Buendia (13 goals and 15 assists over 35 appearances), and raw yet undeniable promise of academy graduates Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell.
Manager Daniel Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber are still at the club’s helm, prioritizing long-term gains over short-term success. Their refusal to make sweeping changes to the squad after last season’s relegation from the Premier League was a ringing endorsement of their own strategy.
The few tweaks that were made to the starting lineup paid off. Fans will be desperate for Oliver Skipp’s loan from Tottenham Hotspur to be made permanent following his impressive term in midfield, while Ben Gibson developed a strong partnership with Grant Hanley on his temporary stint from Burnley until he was injured in March.
But overall, Farke has used 13 members of the first-team squad from the last promotion campaign. He’s stuck to what he knows.
“I always believe in my players and I know what we are capable of. I was convinced we could deliver this performance and this type of result. But I would have taken a dirty 1-0 win in the last minute,” the German tactician said after a recent 7-0 romp against Huddersfield Town, according to Paddy Davitt of the Norwich Evening News.
Norwich’s last crack at the Premier League began in promising fashion, highlighted by a stirring 3-2 win over Manchester City in September 2019. However, it soon descended into a wholly disappointing tumble back into the Championship.
They finished that season with the fewest goals scored (26) and most conceded (75). They were rooted to the bottom when the Premier League season concluded, 14 points adrift of safety after 11 consecutive defeats across all competitions.
Unlike the many reckless clubs that rise to the top tier, Norwich were accused of not spending enough as they drearily made their way toward the trapdoor.
After their last Premier League misadventure, some won’t greet the Canaries back with open arms, but it’s unlikely Norwich will care after such a dominant and entertaining season. They also have another chance to prove their top-flight credentials.
“We’ve got that experience now that we didn’t have before. We want to go up and correct what happened last season,” Cantwell told Sky Sports on Thursday.
He added: “To bring the club back to the Premier League, where I think it belongs, and put things right will be perfect.”