German managers are still very much in vogue at the moment. So it is with little surprise that we see yet another English club try their hand with a flamboyant German import.
Norwich City currently sit proudly atop of the Championship after 33 games. Daniel Farke is the man charged with the demanding task of returning the Canaries to the Premier League, after a three year absence.
Things are very much on track in Norfolk as their enthusiastic and dynamic German coach continues to deliver the goods. After their 0-4 hammering of Bolton gave them their 18th victory of the season at the weekend, it looks increasingly likely that we will be seeing Farke in Premier League dug-outs very soon. With an already impressive CV, the former Dortmund II coach seems well placed to make a lasting impact on English football.
Forged in the lower leagues
Farke has built up quite the football education in the lower leagues. In his homeland, he steered regional minnows SV Lippstadt to two promotions and a new stadium. Such were his achievements that, upon winning promotion to the Regionalliga West, the fourth tier of German football, his team were one of only three in the division to not hold full professional status. Heads were turned in the football fraternity at such a young coach, working miracles with a minuscule budget.
He turned yet more heads in the corridors of German coaching as he graduated with flying colours from the prestigious Hennes Weisweiler Academy, despite performing dual roles as Lippstadt’s Director of Football and First Team Coach.
He would eventually get the call from Borussia Dortmund to manage their second team, following David Wagner’s departure to Huddersfield in 2015. Upon taking up the reins of the under 23 squad, he inherited a side flirting with relegation from the fourth tier and suffering from a huge turnover in players.
Farke seemed to revel in the role and he soon patched up his new club’s form, losing just three times in his maiden season. In fact, the affable coach lost just six times in 56 games at the Stadion Rote Edre. Sitting in the shadows of the enormous first team stadium, Farke began to get true recognition for his attractive and ambitious possession based football. He was linked to Stuttgart as he turned Dortmund II in to genuine promotion contenders to the third tier. Cue Start Webber and his encyclopaedic knowledge of German football.
Webber had previous when it comes to recruiting from Dortmund. It was his call, when as director of football for Huddersfield, the club brought in David Wagner and promotion was secured to the Premier League within two seasons. Norwich had recruited Webber’s services in 2017 as their relegation parachute payments dwindled and a new, savvy transfer policy was sought.
Farke was seen as the perfect candidate and was duly recruited for Carrow Road in May 2017. This ambitious student of the game finally had a major platform to operate on. Despite a rocky start to life in Norfolk, with the club initially struggling in mid-table in the second tier, the German was slowly turning the screw as the club began to adapt to a new direction in the Championship.
Their current status as league leaders in the Championship is even more remarkable when you consider their modest budget and more cautious transfer policy. The Canaries are more in the market for players like James Maddison, whom they snapped up for reasonable fee from Coventry, before selling on to Leicester City in 2018 for a fee in the region of £20 million. Farke, who cut his teeth at clubs with little or no budget, has clearly got the brief. The likes of Teemu Pukki and Emiliano Buendia were recruited last summer for less than £2 million combined and have gone to be hugely instrumental to the club’s attacking football this season.
Farke is a self-confessed purist, who loves his sides to have the ball and press high up the pitch. His formations are fluid, with his side regularly switching between 4-1-4-1, 3-5-2 and 4-2-3-1 during games. Recent demolition jobs of Leeds and Bolton have had the fans purring and daring to dream of unleashing their high tempo football on Premier League opposition.
Defending is still something of an issue, with 42 conceded the most in the top six as things currently stand. Fulham are a great example of a club coming up, having played some wonderful football in the second tier, only for their second rate defence to be brutally exposed by superior finishing in the top flight.
Regardless, the former Dortmund II coach has delivered some wonderful football and great moments this season. His bold approach has taken a prudent, unfashionable club to the brink of automatic promotion to the promised land. Whether or not he can get Norwich over the line and promoted this season remains to be seen. What is clear though is the impact Farke has made in such a short spell in the game. At 42-years-old he has time on his side and may well find more suitors coming knocking on his door from England’s band of elite football clubs.