Connor Southwell: City's defensive conundrum just got tougher ahead of champions visit
PUBLISHED: 11:57 10 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:12 12 September 2019
Norwich City's treatment room seems inundated with defenders at present, with young full back Max Aarons the latest casualty added to the seemingly ever-increasing list.
Witnessing the youngster with his left ankle in a protective boot will only fuel the worry that is growing throughout the Canary nation.
Last season's miraculous assault to Championship glory saw both of the academy graduates who occupy both flanks become integral to how the Canaries implemented their philosophy onto games.
Aarons joins centre backs Christoph Zimmermann and Timm Klose in the physios' room, compiling more uncertainty onto how Norwich's back line will shape up as English champions Manchester City arrive at Carrow Road on Saturday. Whilst the diagnosis on the injury Aarons suffered on international duty is, as yet, unclear, it appears unlikely that he'll be fit enough to test himself against some of the best to grace the division this weekend.
Momentum in football is significant, you only need to reference the exploits of last season to realise that. Daniel Farke's men are four games into their Premier League adventure and, as of yet, the German's selection choices have been made on necessity rather than possessing an abundance of choice from a fully fit squad.
Occupying the central defender positions have been Ben Godfrey, a player who emerged in a similar fashion to the two full backs during last campaign and Scottish international Grant Hanley, a player who made a mere nine appearances in the Championship last season. Two of those came after he suffered injury in the East Anglian Derby against Ipswich Town.
Hanley himself is a man who has provoked debate throughout the season to date and the superlatives that were once attributed to his performances in his debut season seem to have been exchanged for insecurity and questions regarding his ability. Whether the Scot would be present in the line up if Zimmermann and Klose were fit is meaningless, Farke doesn't possess the depth to select his preferred candidate for the role.
MORE: Aarons on ankle injury
In light of the worrying injury bulletin, Farke will have to display his trust in those operators who are presented with an opportunity due to injuries, something that worked in the Canaries' favour during the entirety of the last campaign. Whenever a fringe option was handed a yellow and green shirt, they stepped into the role vacated with aplomb.
The Premier League, however, is about levels and they don't get higher than Pep Guardiola's title winning side.
Hanley's own injury woes prevented him joining fellow Scot Kenny McLean on international duty but City will hope their club captain has recovered suitably to fill the hole left by absences at centre back. Sam Byram may also be thrown into the starting line-up should Aarons miss the game on Saturday. Norwich's side lacks nous at Premier League level, beyond Alex Tettey, Tim Krul and Grant Hanley, it is few and far between but in Byram, Norwich possess another performer who has played in this division previously.
Byram, who joined the Canaries in the summer, is due to be tested by Raheem Sterling and those who witnessed his performance in the Carabao Cup defeat to Crawley Town discussed his teething issues in an under par display. He is yet to record a start but Norwich may be reliant on an alternative right back to Aarons from the off for the first time since they were defeated 0-3 by Leeds United at Carrow Road last September.
The full backs have proved themselves to be integral to Norwich's implementation of their philosophy on the ball but praised for their athleticism in equal measure. Byram will have to offer Norwich's right hand side with some much needed protection in a fixture where the onus will be placed more on their defensive resolve.
Byram's last Premier League start was from previous club West Ham in a 4-1 away defeat to Swansea City. Interestingly, he was deployed as a right winger in that fixture before suffering an ankle injury and missing the remainder of the 17-18 season.
Farke may opt to blame luck, but the disruption to their back line prevents Norwich from constructing any degree of rhythm and structure to their play. With the emphasis on influencing games from an offensive perspective, the reassurance of a strong foundation is critical to creating expression for those more advanced operators.
For Farke, this serves as another unwanted conundrum to solve.