David Freezer: Cruel blow for Hernandez but City have hungry attackers eager to feed Pukki
PUBLISHED: 17:27 16 August 2019 | UPDATED: 18:30 16 August 2019
Injuries can be so cruel. One day you’re becoming the first Cuban to play in the Premier League, less than a week later you’re facing a minimum of three months out with a knee injury.
Onel Hernandez must be cursing his luck, after a slip on the stairs at home saw the speedy winger land awkwardly on his knee and tear his meniscus, the cartilage which provides the cushion between the shin and thigh bones.
Surgery is already booked for Monday and Daniel Farke is still worried that the damage could be more serious, which could bring an even longer injury spell for a player who proved so important during last's season's Championship title triumph.
The 26-year-old's unpredictable rhythm when in full attacking flow can be a blessing as much as a curse, often leaving fans frustrated when tricky work opens up good opportunities, which are then wasted.
However, Hernandez chipped in with an excellent eight goals and 11 assists from 40 league games, proving City's move to bring him to England from Eintracht Braunschweig in January of last year was a shrewd piece of business, for a reported £1.7m.
His Boxing Day brace to seal a dramatic fightback from 3-0 down against Forest sealed a place in Canaries folklore for the Argos loving wide man with the beaming smile, when his equaliser in the seventh minute of injury-time sent Carrow Road wild.
So as Hernandez emerged for the final 20 minutes at Anfield last weekend, complete with an eye-catching new hair style, he must have been so excited for the opportunities ahead of him.
Despite impressing in Bundesliga II with Braunschweig, it's as recently as May 2016 that the former Germany Under-18 international had been playing in the fourth tier in Germany, helping Wolfsburg II win the Regionalliga North title.
Farke must plan without Hernandez for the time being though, losing a wide option just a week after the transfer window closed for Premier League clubs.
Fortunately, one of City's five summer signings was Manchester City winger Patrick Roberts, a left-footed player who can play on either side and who looked good in pre-season, demolishing Luton in a 5-1 friendly win.
Academy product Todd Cantwell had got the nod to start on the left against Liverpool anyway and looked a creative threat against the Champions League winners, although he struggled to keep the shackles on England right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold during his defensive work.
Along with Marco Stiepermann and Emi Buendia, the young duo are set for chances to impress on the big stage as part of the attacking midfield trident providing support to leading man Teemu Pukki.
There is added depth as well, with Kenny McLean and Mario Vrancic both capable of playing further forward, Dennis Srbeny occasionally used out wide and with Philip Heise having plenty of experience as a wing-back, so there are options before dipping into the under-23 squad.
Simon Power (Ross County), Diallang Jaiyesimi (Swindon) and Josh Coley (Dunfermline) have all gone out on loan already, leaving summer arrival Aidan Fitzpatrick as the chief academy option, should it be needed. The 19-year-old was playing first-team football regularly for Partick Thistle last season - but it looks unlikely Farke will be needing U23 reinforcement.
It's Cantwell who really does have the big opportunity in the wake of Hernandez's misfortune but the local lad will know he has Roberts eagerly waiting to show what he can do, a player who won three Scottish Premiership titles with Celtic.
The injury is a blow but Cantwell and Roberts have as much to prove in the Premier League as Cuba's top football export. The challenge remains the same against Newcastle tomorrow as it was when taking on Liverpool: keep feeding Pukki. As Buendia's beautiful Anfield assist reminded us, City have a player in the clinical form of his life.
- I'd just like to finish by sending my sympathies to the family and friends of passionate Canaries supporter David Powell, who tragically lost his life in a car crash earlier this week.
Self-professed as 'Angry Dave' at times, he was a passionate City fan who was always keen to tell us his views when we bumped into him at games and will be missed.
On a similarly sober note, here's hoping that former Norwich striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel can overcome the worrying brain aneurysm which has ruled him out of football for the time being.
Both situations remind us to make the most of every day and to keep the importance of football in perspective.