Paddy Davitt: City Six - Final audition for Canaries against Toulouse
PUBLISHED: 12:15 02 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:23 02 August 2019
A dash of French flair to finish those Premier League preparations. Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt on what is in store at Carrow Road this weekend.
1. Holding the centre ground
Daniel Farke has some intriguing selection dilemmas for the Premier League opener. None more so than in central defence.
Christoph Zimmermann can be discounted from the equation for now although it will not be long before he is back in contention after knee surgery.
Grant Hanley will need to prove his fitness perhaps with some action against Toulouse after missing the midweek Atalanta defeat with a groin problem.
But if the Scot is fighting fit then it appears to be three from two for Anfield. Timm Klose will need no reminding of his wayward pass that led to the Italians' opener on Tuesday but the Swiss international looks fit and lean and ready for the challenges ahead.
Ben Godfrey recovered swiftly from his own ankle scare out in Germany and appeared to enjoy his tussle with £40m-rated striker Duvan Zapata in midweek. At this stage you really could not call it but perhaps one final nudge could tip the balance.
2. Flexible friends
With Emi Buendia, Todd Cantwell and Patrick Roberts all cut from the same cloth there is a cavalier core to this Norwich City squad going forward.
Atalanta may have punished the hosts with three devastating second half counters but there was no less thrills and spills in the manner City set about the task in the opening half at Carrow Road.
Buendia may have nominally started games on the right or occasionally the left of a midfield three last season but he clearly has full licence to drift infield and link up with the likes of Marco Stiepermann and Teemu Pukki at the sharp end.
We have seen the same instincts and the same cunning search for spaces from both Roberts and latterly Cantwell in pre-season.
All three look comfortable coming infield and interchanging positions. Drop the more direct Stiepermann and Onel Hernandez into the mix and City can catch teams off balance in the final third.
3. Cantwell is cruising
It is fair to assume not too many Norwich City fans outside Todd Cantwell's inner circle wold have touted him for a shot at being involved against the champions of Europe.
That there is now a considered argument to make and a case to press is a testament to the growing assurance and confidence he has shown in a pre-season programme where more often than not he has been front and centre rather than a late cameo or two from the bench.
That alone tells you Daniel Farke now believes he is a viable option.
A goal and any number of clever, intricate passes slipped in the direction of chiefly, Pukki, at Carrow Road in midweek underlined even in very decent company the boy from Dereham does not look out of place.
There was a bravery and a willingness to try things that could prove a priceless commodity in the Premier League when the waters are choppy and City are in need of an inspirational spark.
4. Has Super Mario ran out of time?
You can be sure Mario Vrancic did not want last season to end.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Vrancic's stunning goals and all-round play hauled City over the finishing line after a few inevitable stumbles checked what looked increasingly a coronation afte that stunning Vrancic-inspired away win at Leeds United.
There is another reason why the Bosnian international probably had no desire to put his feet up. For the second consecutive summer, injuries appear to have hindered his ability to make a compelling case for inclusion in a congested midfield.
A calf problem this time around meant he only made his return to the pitch on Tuesday with a second half outing from the bench. Farke revealed afterwards even that had been a stretch following just two training sessions with his team mates.
Expect more game time against Toulouse but the ship may already have sailed for opening night at Anfield.
5. Ease the expectancy on Pukki
It is a blessing but also perhaps a curse that Pukki's goals look integral to Norwich City's survival chances in the Premier League.
Given the scale of his plunder in the Championship during a debut season to savour there was no chance of Pukki slipping quietly into the top flight with no pressure or expectation he can strive to do the same, albeit in smaller quantities against better teams and in all probablity in a side creating fewer chances.
There was a couple of goals on tour but a toe problem saw him sit out the games against Brentford and Luton Town.
Against Atalanta in midweek there was much to admire in his all round play but that sharpness and clinicial edge we associate with his deadly finishing was absent. It is a mark of the man when he gets into such shooting positions you expect the net to ripple.
That may prove far more difficult this time around, but he will still be worth his weight in goals.
6. Ignore the noise, City fans
Talking of Pukki, the Finnish international is tipped to finish on nine Premier League goals this coming season.
So says a BT Sport commissioned report, grandly titled 'The Script', which employed some of the big data specialists to tell us what is going to unfold in minute detail between here and next May.
It was hardly a surprise to learn City were tipped for relegation and Tim Krul - subject to holding off the challenge of Ralf Fahrmann - will have to operate behind the leakiest defence in the division.
Norwich's relative lack of spending in the transfer market, certainly compared to the lavish outlay of fellow new boys Aston Villa, has also convinced plenty of pundits to predict impending doom.
Inside the walls of Carrow Road, or Colney for that matter, they adhere to a mantra which essentially advises players and staff to 'ignore the noise' and stay true to your path. That means no distractions. However hard it is going to be to ignore.