Paddy Davitt: City Six - What to look out for in Canaries' Luton Town friendly
PUBLISHED: 05:55 27 July 2019 | UPDATED: 07:45 27 July 2019
Next stop Luton for Norwich City. Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt sets the scene as the big Premier League countdown continues.
1. Mighty Max
Those in attendance for Norwich City's pre-season trip to Luton Town last summer witnessed the first stirrings of a remarkable rise from Max Aarons.
The Canaries' youngster was deployed in a less familiar left-back role at Kenilworth Road, to underline he was clearly in Daniel Farke's first team thoughts.
It took a few more months and a switch to the opposite flank for Aarons to establish himself as not just Norwich's first choice but one of the best young talents in the Championship.
England age group honours followed, along with end-of-season awards and then the inevitable Premier League speculation touting him with some of the biggest clubs in the land.
A new five-year deal has quelled that talk and should he feature again today at the club where it all started for him, before joining the Canaries' academy, he could be forgiven for pausing to take in just how far he has come in the past 12 months.
2. Time for Timm to step up
You may be surprised to learn Timm Klose's re-appearance in the midweek behind-closed-doors friendly against Brentford was his first start since facing the Bees in the Championship on January 1.
That equalising header at Griffin Park was a vital intervention, but arguably Klose's last serious act in a season that ended with promotion to the Premier League forged around a central defensive axis of Ben Godfrey and Christoph Zimmermann.
The knee surgery for Zimmermann, that rules him out of the Premier League kick-off, is a window of opportunity for the Swiss international, who has eased himself back into service to ensure his own knee issue was firmly behind him.
The crew-cut Klose looks fit and lean and armed with a new contract over the summer must surely feel he has unfinished business in the top flight.
He needs to lay down a marker over the next week, starting at Luton.
3. Mean and miserly
Norwich's Championship title-winning success was forged on a diet of attacking thrust and goalscoring plunder.
Teemu Pukki put himself in the front rank of his Norwich predecessors down the ages with a debut campaign the Finn could only have dreamed about when he pitched up on a free transfer.
Add in the dash and pomp of Emi Buendia, the cut and thrust of Onel Hernandez and the irrepressible Marco Stiepermann with his hammer of a left foot and City going forward were in full working order. That ensured any defensive vulnerabilty was a mere footnote most weeks.
But in the Premier League it is unrealistic to expect the same creative edge or the same quantities of goals and chances.
There is an extra premium on defensive resolve and despite the pre-season nature of the defeat against Brentford, Farke will want no more 'slapstick' moments as he labelled them.
4. Can the fringe men shine?
Luton may be the first of three more pre-season tests ahead but you can be sure with each passing day the City head coach turns his attentions to Liverpool and the Premier League kick-off on August 9.
The season may be long, albeit not on the scale of the Championship marathon, but those Norwich players who need to convince Farke they should be involved at Anfield are running out of chances to impress.
The City boss will clearly lean towards lads who were centre stage at the defining moments of last season. But the fringe players and the summer arrivals can not rely on such a previous body of work to make their case.
Dennis Srbeny and Josip Drmic have the rather daunting test of trying to dislodge Pukki.
In reality they are duelling for the support role on Merseyside, but the same applies to perhaps a Sam Byram or a Philip Heise. They have to put the hammer down now and catch Farke's eye.
5. Precious Pukki
Talking of the main man, the absence of City's prolific striker from the squad who featured in midweek against Brentford, with what Farke called a 'minor toe problem' may still have induced a nauseous feeling among some fans.
Pukki really is vital to how Farke will attack the challenge of firstly surviving in the Premier League and in time trying to flourish.
With that in mind, the Finn really has nothing to prove regarding his ability or his suitability to spearhead City's attack at Anfield next month.
Any slight niggle or any need to manage a workload for club and country that saw his season extend well beyond lifting that trophy at Villa Park, should be factored in over these next three friendlies.
Pukki has already notched twice in the earlier pre-season tests and Farke knows when it matters he is the man he will turn to in a bid to cause the Reds some early discomfort.
6. One last thing. No more injuries.
The tipping point is rapidly approaching when any fresh injuries would in all probability rule players out for the big kick-off.
Go back a week or two and an innocuous challenge from Godfrey had a worried Farke contemplating whether he might need to go back into the transfer market for an unscheduled defensive addition.
Thankfully, scans on the Yorkshireman's ankle allayed initial fears and he was back within a week with an appearance against Schalke 04.
But given Mario Vrancic and Alex Tettey face a race against time to be in consideration and players such as Drmic, Kenny McLean, Klose, Pukki and Buendia have all sat out parts of this pre-season programme, it would be an unwanted headache for Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber if they had to react to fresh injuries picked up against Luton, Atalanta or Toulouse.
The balancing act of course is getting City's squad in tip top shape.