December 4, 2022

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Norwich boss Daniel Farke vows to attack Premier League with vigour

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Under construction at Norwich’s training ground is the SoccerBot360. At a cost of £750,000, it is a circular room with video walls.

Players stand inside the circle with a ball at their feet and are tasked with hitting any targets which pop up on the screens around them. Like a football version of Whack-A-Mole.

Norwich are the first club in the country to install one and manager Daniel Farke describes it as an ‘expression of ourselves’. In an hour-long chat, Farke explains to Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton why, as a self-funded club who cannot simply splash £20million on a player, they have to do things differently to others. Kieran Gill listened in.

Norwich boss Daniel Farke believes his side can avoid relegation if they play 'risky' football

Norwich boss Daniel Farke believes his side can avoid relegation if they play 'risky' football

Norwich boss Daniel Farke believes his side can avoid relegation if they play ‘risky’ football  

DANIEL FARKE: We have to be more creative, quicker, more risky. This should be our strategy. If it was just down to money and individual quality, we’d have no chance. We have to go our way.

We won’t say we’re going to stay in the Premier League because of our SoccerBot — it’s not like we will go in with the team and have training sessions. But you can work in there individually.

I worked at Borussia Dortmund and they had something similar called the Footbonaut. Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski often worked there to improve their first touch, awareness, tidiness. It’s details.

Farke says Norwich have to be 'more creative and quicker' if they are to upset the odds

Farke says Norwich have to be 'more creative and quicker' if they are to upset the odds

Farke says Norwich have to be ‘more creative and quicker’ if they are to upset the odds  

CHRIS SUTTON: To extract that extra one or two per cent out of your players?

FARKE: This is an expression of our way, how we try to be ahead of the wave instead of swimming with it. When we have this SoccerBot, we’ll want to do the next thing. It’s what we need to do, because we don’t have the financial background like other clubs. It’s about fine margins, that one or two per cent.

One good touch can change the whole game. These are the details we like to work with. We are not too addicted to it, but it is an expression of ourselves.

SUTTON: Thank you for taking the time to talk, Daniel, and congratulations on bouncing straight back. I have to ask, Norwich ended the 2019-20 season by losing 10 straight Premier League games, so what did you say to the players on the first day of the following pre-season?

FARKE: I’m a deep believer in being honest and not playing mind games. We spoke intensely about the reality. At least when I was in England, not one club was able to return to the Premier League with direct promotion. Just one team bounced back and that was Fulham in the last seconds of the play-off final.

Two years ago, my gut feeling was we were not prepared for the Premier League. I said we’d need a miracle to stay up. We went up with a bunch of young lads. They were buzzing. But it is like driving with my car in Formula One — I might have the enthusiasm but I would never win the race.

Norwich were relegated after ending last season by losing 10 straight Premier League games

Norwich were relegated after ending last season by losing 10 straight Premier League games

 Norwich were relegated after ending last season by losing 10 straight Premier League games

Farke says they 'spoke intensely about the reality' of being relegated at pre-season training

Farke says they 'spoke intensely about the reality' of being relegated at pre-season training

 Farke says they ‘spoke intensely about the reality’ of being relegated at pre-season training

SUTTON: So it would have taken a miracle to stay up in the Premier League two years ago. Will it require a miracle to stay up next season?

FARKE: No, we don’t need a miracle. It will be unbelievably hard work but it is possible. We are still the only self-funding club at this level. We will still be the big underdog. But we are much better prepared.

Over the last 30 years, which teams have the best chance of surviving after promotion? It is the ones who are promoted because of a solid defence. Your outstanding attack at a higher level is not that outstanding any more. We will still go for our opponent. It will never be that my Norwich side park the bus and pray for a deflected strike.

We will try to press high, keep the ball and attack, but not in a naive way.

There is a family feel to Norwich. While sorting through a sea of shirts, kit man Pete Dye discusses how he followed up on a promotion promise by playing his tuba in the dressing room for the players.

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He played Sweet Caroline until midfielder Kenny McLean poured a bottle of Peroni down its pipes.

The German doesn't feel they need a miracle to stay up and hailed the club's 'family' vibe

The German doesn't feel they need a miracle to stay up and hailed the club's 'family' vibe

The German doesn’t feel they need a miracle to stay up and hailed the club’s ‘family’ vibe  

The front-of-house restaurant staff, Vicky and Quentin, cannot do enough for you and sporting director Stuart Webber stops for a chat on his way to a meeting. Farke brings with him a special energy, and it is easy to see why the Norwich squad enjoy playing for him.

SUTTON: Pep Guardiola says he is a big fan of your football. Do you have any coaching idols?

FARKE: Ottmar Hitzfeld. He won many German titles but also the Champions League with Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

He was a perfect head coach for Bayern because he was always a gentleman, with class and style. Perhaps he was not a technical genius like Pep, but he had an unbelievable feeling for man-management. Even now, when there are difficult decisions, sometimes I ask myself, ‘How would Ottmar Hitzfeld react?’

SUTTON: You had a difficult decision to make at the start of this season. Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia were dropped because their heads had seemingly been turned.

FARKE: If I get the feeling a player cannot give everything to this yellow shirt, I will go without him — regardless of how much he cost, how much he earns, how big his name is. I have my demands.

Ottmar Hitzfeld is Farke's coaching idol and looks to the managerial legend for inspiration

Ottmar Hitzfeld is Farke's coaching idol and looks to the managerial legend for inspiration

Ottmar Hitzfeld is Farke’s coaching idol and looks to the managerial legend for inspiration

SUTTON: You got them back on side. Cantwell and Buendia have been outstanding for you.

FARKE: I could understand them. I told them I wasn’t angry. They got lots of praise in the Premier League. Their names were connected with the biggest clubs. Since they joined us, their way was always up. Day to day, they got more and more praise.

The relegation was the first time they suffered a setback. Max Aarons, I cannot praise him enough for being unbelievably focused but everyone is not the same. You played against Manchester City and got praise from Pep. Then you travel to Wycombe, or Rotherham, or Luton.

I love Cantwell and Buendia but if you let the levels drop, you lose the dressing room. I offered them a way back.

SUTTON: What if nice bids come in for, say, Buendia and Aarons this summer? They would be impossible to replace, surely?

FARKE: Difficult to replace, but no player is bigger than the club. I am realistic. I know I work for a self-funded club. It is part of our model that we develop players and once there’s a crazy offer, this club will sell. We will always have to be creative in the market.

He says it would be hard to replace Max Aarons (R) or Buendia (L) but insists they are not bigger than Norwich

He says it would be hard to replace Max Aarons (R) or Buendia (L) but insists they are not bigger than Norwich

He says it would be hard to replace Max Aarons (R) or Buendia (L) but insists they are not bigger than Norwich

Farke will not accept the bare minimum and would not take 17th place if offered to him

Farke will not accept the bare minimum and would not take 17th place if offered to him

Farke will not accept the bare minimum and would not accept 17th place if offered to him

There’s no guarantee that if you bring in Buendia, a 21-year-old from the Spanish second league, he will go this way but thank God he did. Of course it’s easier to spend £20m on a quality player. But this club cannot do it and sometimes we will have to sell our best players. I remember the sale of James Maddison (to Leicester for £22m in 2018). Without that fee, I’m not sure the club would even still exist. We were under unbelievable pressure.

SUTTON: Do you not get frustrated with that model?

FARKE: I knew what I was signing up for. I don’t rate my job just by winning titles or earning money. It can be more valuable to give something to the community of a club, instead of being the 27th coach to win a title there. I’m totally at the right place right now and totally happy.

SUTTON: If I offered you a 17th-placed finish right now, Daniel, would you take it?

FARKE: It will be an unbelievable success if we finish 17th and the parade that we were not allowed to do this year, believe me, we will do next year. But I want to win as many games as possible. I would not be happy with the minimum.

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