Forget the last few months of the season - January will determine Norwich's promotion push

09 January 2021 05:30

Pre-Christmas is all just a bit of fun and games in the Championship.

Everyone knows you don't have to play well or pick up any points before the turn of the year; conserve your energy, win a couple of games in March or April and you'll grab a play-off spot at the very least - them's the rules.

Alright, that's obviously not completely true, but it's not far off.

Farke is in danger of losing some star men | George Wood/Getty Images

England's second tier has an uncanny knack of throwing up an absolute wildcard at the back end of every season. There's always a team that have been languishing in mid-table all season, yet after stringing together a few wins at the back end of the campaign they sneak into the top six - take Swansea last season for example.

It happens so regularly that it's not even a shock anymore. The 'dark horses' who make a late dash for the play-offs shouldn't even be considered outsiders - if you're not bottom of the table with five games to go then you're in with a shout.

So, the final few months of the season are evidently imperative in the Championship - as they are in any league, but more so in this one - yet, in a weird sort of way, it's the this month that will determine which league Norwich City are playing in next season.

In one of the most fiercely competitive campaigns in recent memory, the Canaries have been the perennial frontrunners of this season's dash for the Premier League.

Buendia is one of those being linked with a move away | Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Despite being able to throw a blanket over the majority of the league - with just eight points difference between 15th placed Cardiff City and sixth placed Watford - Daniel Farke's side have managed to maintain their place at the top of the table.

Consistency is the key to success in the Championship. It's all well and good having a team of match-winners who only turn up once every five games, but to prevail in the 46-game second tier you need to be able to produce week in week out, and that's exactly what Norwich have done this season.

Their ability to bounce back from defeat is what has set them apart from the rest, having only suffered back-to-back losses once all campaign. This mentality coupled with a squad brimming with talent undoubtedly sees them as favourites to clinch the title. However, could that all be about to change?

For most Championship clubs, January is a time solidify their progress for the season so far as they look to add to their squads and push on towards their season goal - Norwich find themselves in a very different position.

Having performed so poorly at the back end of last season, very few Premier League vultures circled Carrow Road in a bid to pick off their brightest stars. Yet, having spent the last four months reminding everyone just how good they can be, the top-flight clubs are back.

Max Aarons is one those being linked with a January move away, with Manchester United rumoured to be keen to provide a more attacking alternative to Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Aarons has been superb for the Canaries this campaign, playing every single minute of the club's 23 league games thus far, with his energy and drive down the Norwich right becoming a feature of their play.

Were the Canaries hierarchy to be tempted into parting ways with their talented youngster, he would be nigh-on impossible to replace with a player who has experience of winning the league, could provide similar levels of quality and could be snapped up in the space of a matter of weeks.

Max Aarons has been superb this season | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

One of the few Norwich players who was still rumoured to be leaving in the club in the summer after their wretched run-in was Emiliano Buendia, so it's no surprise to hear the Argentinian is once again being courted by Arsenal.

While Aarons would be a huge loss to Farke's side, losing Buendia would undoubtedly be the bigger blow. Not only does the midfielder boast stellar stats this season - contributing seven goals and seven assists in his 19 league appearances - he's imperative to Norwich's style of play.

Jordan Hugill and Teemu Pukki may well be solid Championship strikers, but neither are the type to be able to conjure themselves a chance out of nothing - they both require regular, quality service, and that's exactly what Buendia offers them.

The loss of the creative midfielder wouldn't just take away a huge goal threat, it would also mean Farke was forced to completely shuffle his pack and develop a new style of play midseason - something which is unlikely to glean instant results.

Emiliano Buendia's goals and creativity have been key to Norwich's season thus far | Michael Steele/Getty Images

Whether the speculation surrounding both players is true remains to be seen, but when you consider Arsenal's lack of guile in midfield and United's need for a more attacking right-sided outlet, both respective rumours seem completely plausible.

Should bids be tabled, Norwich have a huge decision on their hands - take the money up front and risk losing millions by missing out promotion, or reject potentially eye-watering sums of money and pray they hang onto their spot in the top two - good luck with that one.

Source: 90min