Dean Smith - sacked by Aston Villa on Sunday - is understood to have impressed in his interview and is someone Norwich see as having the right credentials; they have also held talks with Frank Lampard
Friday 12 November 2021 15:18, UK
Frank Lampard and Dean Smith are in a two-horse race to be appointed Norwich City's head coach, but both candidates are yet to decide if they want the job.
Former England international Lampard, 43, and Smith, sacked as Aston Villa head coach on Sunday, have both held talks remotely with the Norwich hierarchy this week.
Further talks are planned later on Friday with Lampard, who is currently in Dubai, and his representatives over a first return to management since he was sacked by Chelsea in January.
Smith, 50, who is visiting his son in New York, is understood to have impressed in his interview, boasting an in-depth knowledge of the squad, playing style and culture of the club.
He is seen as a good fit for the club with a similar ethos, and vast experience in the Premier League and Championship with Aston Villa and Brentford.
Lampard is seen to offer a very different set of skills and is viewed as a young and inspirational manager, whose name and standing in the game would help attract top players.
Norwich sacked Daniel Farke hours after he recorded the club's first Premier League victory of the season at Brentford on Saturday.
The Canaries are bottom of the Premier League with five points from 11 games and their next game is at home against Southampton on November 20.
The Norwich board and sporting director Stuart Webber have been impressed by both candidates so far.
Norwich were also previously keen to speak to Bodo Glimt head coach Kjetil Knutsen.
Knutsen, who is also attracting interest from Molde, has turned Bodo Glimt from relegation candidates to first-time Norwegian champions. They beat Roma 6-1 last month in the UEFA Conference League.
Norwich also initially had Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl on their shortlist for the vacancy.
Norwich see this appointment as a key one for the future direction of the club and will take their time.
A decision over Farke's successor is not expected until Sunday at the earliest.
The outlook certainly appears gloomy with five points from two draws and one win in 11 games, but the Canaries still remain only five points deep in the relegation zone - a relatively small margin to overturn with 27 games left to play.
The primary concern is how their rock-bottom status in the division transfers across a raft of metrics on the pitch: goals, expected goals, chances created, passes in the final third and goals conceded - to list just a few.
The underwhelming returns up top are a stark contrast to the team's free-scoring exploits during their title-winning promotion campaign in the Championship last term.
Of course, the step up into England's top tier plays a factor, as it did during their immediate relegation in 2019/20, but the disparity between seasons appears even greater this time around - and it ended with a rock-bottom finish last time.
The Canaries' tally of just five league goals is even more alarming when you factor that two of those came from the penalty spot. If you exclude spot kicks, the club has three top scorers - each with a solitary goal and nearly a third of the season played.
In addition to deficiencies at both ends of the pitch, the departure of creative midfielder Emi Buendia - who joined Dean Smith at Aston Villa in a £38m deal this summer - also appears to be a key factor behind the decline.
Indeed, the visualisations below reveal a dearth of activity in the exact areas where the Argentine operated with league-topping effectiveness last term.
Lampard or Smith might look to negotiate funds for a creative midfielder in January or utilise connections for a loan deal, in addition to potentially turning to current out-of-favour Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour to boost solidity in central areas.
Rekindling Todd Cantwell's form could also be high on the agenda. The local boy shone for Norwich in the Premier League two years ago and attracted a host of powerhouse suitors before his form dipped.
Norwich have largely adopted a self-sufficient approach during their recent survival tilts in the Premier League - resting heavily on talent within the ranks, development and youth.
While many teams turn to experience to stay afloat in the top flight, the Canaries currently have the sixth-youngest average starting XI in the division.
The ethos suggests a clear vision for sustainability, profit and progression, but now requires a transitional step to sustaining top-flight security if those gains are to be realised in success on the pitch.
Loan signings Gilmour, Brandon Williams and Ozan Kabak have featured from the U21 group, while highly-rated full-back Max Aarons has played every minute to date, and Josh Sargent (21) and Andrew Omobamidele (19) have also clocked notable game-time.
The focus on youth and loaning players to develop would appeal to Lampard and Smith, who both implemented similar philosophies as managers in the Premier League and Championship.
Smith left Villa as the fourth-youngest team in the division, behind only Arsenal, former side Brentford and Southampton.
Meanwhile, Lampard gave 15 players their first-team debut during his season-and-a-half spell in charge at Chelsea - with the first 10 all being 21 or under, including England duo Mason Mount and Reece James - in addition to Tariq Lamptey before the full-back moved to Brighton.
But while the allure of youth and development will entice, either manager is also likely to bolster and balance the ranks with experience - in an attempt to reverse the club's current trajectory and avoid another one-season wonder in the Premier League.
November 20: Norwich vs Southampton - Premier League, kick-off 3pm
November 27: Norwich vs Wolves - Premier League, kick-off 3pm
November 30: Newcastle vs Norwich - Premier League, kick-off 7.30pm
December 5: Tottenham vs Norwich - Premier League, kick-off 2pm
December 11: Norwich vs Man Utd - Premier League, kick-off 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports
December 14: Norwich vs Aston Villa - Premier League, kick-off 7.45pm