Freezer’s Five: Hernandez and Leitner among the positives but left-back options are a concern
PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 August 2018 | UPDATED: 13:25 05 August 2018
Following the 2-2 draw at Birmingham which got Norwich City’s new season off to an exciting start, Canaries correspondent David Freezer looks at some of the game’s key talking points.
It’s good to be back
There were plenty of social media moaners keen to point out that City’s first result of the season was a draw against a team which narrowly avoided relegation last season and have had transfer restrictions this summer.
While that may well be true in the cold light of day, for those at St Andrew’s in the thick of the opening-day atmosphere, there was no need for such negativity.
Were it not for allowing the Blues a sloppy second goal the Canaries would have won this game – and as Daniel Farke said afterwards, they should have.
With plenty of chances made, substitutes making an impact, an exciting attacker scoring two good goals at the same end as the away fans and plenty of passion among the home support as well, this was a proper Championship battle.
Clearly there are things to improve on for City but starting the season with a draw away from home, with plenty of entertainment along the way, ensured there were positives to take home and work with.
There is a fans’ favourite vacancy waiting to be filled after James Maddison’s exit and Onel Hernandez has already made a strong claim.
The Cuban winger looks fit and ready for the challenge, after seeing progress following his January move held up by a month out with a hamstring strain.
There’s no doubting the £1.7m signing from Eintracht Braunschweig has arrived now. It may only have been a draw but scoring two equalisers late on made him the man of the moment.
After both of his clinical finishes were in front of the 2,300 travelling supporters, his celebrations have reminded Canaries fans of just what they were missing during the summer months.
His lively running still needs to produce more crosses but this opening-day double will come as a huge confidence boost for a player with bags of ability.
Let there be Leit
Moritz Leitner had quite the impact as a substitute at St Andrew’s.
The former Borussia Dortmund man is a player City have invested in knowing that there is plenty of potential to be tapped into.
While pre-season hadn’t offered too much evidence of that, the former Germany U21 midfielder clearly had the bit between his teeth after coming on in the 63rd minute.
Leitner immediately started finding the gaps in the tiring Blues back-line, with neat footwork in the box allowing Ben Marshall a shot at goal.
He also freed Hernandez for a shot which the winger fired just beyond the far post which would have put City 2-1 up and must have been so disappointed to see Jordan Rhodes not head home his sublime, dipping cross from the left.
More of that forward-looking play, mixed with a goal threat, and this potential romantic revival will soon be right on track.
James Husband allowed another chance to impress in the absence of Jamal Lewis to pass him by.
With confidence still looking to be an issue and his use of the ball seemingly not of Farke standards, his replacement just after the hour came as no surprise.
Marco Stiepermann filled in again before limping off but hasn’t always looked a great fit at full-back.
Now it comes down to whether Lewis can find fitness and the form which launched him to starting status so quickly last season.
If not, City might just have a problem position which needs attention before Thursday’s transfer deadline, although they have until the end of August for loans as well.
The overseas influence in this Canaries squad was all too clear in Birmingham, naming the permitted minimum seven homegrown players, with Todd Cantwell on the bench as the necessary club-produced player.
Tim Krul, Ben Marshall, Grant Hanley, James Husband, Jordan Rhodes and Louis Thompson all ticked the ‘homegrown’ box.
Had Jamal Lewis been fit then that club-produced box would have been sorted and it’s quite possible summer arrival Emi Buendia may well have been on the bench instead of Cantwell.
It shows the delicate balance Farke now has on his hands as he plans his matchday squads this season, particularly once injuries and suspensions kick in.
Having a back-up keeper in Michael McGovern who doesn’t count towards the homegrown quota – having come through as a player in Scotland – is hardly ideal with such little room for manoeuvre.
City fans are not going to want their head coach restricted from picking the squad he wants by regulations.