Ian Clarke: So many stars in Farke’s class of ‘18/19 - and still time for more heroes to emerge
If I asked you who your City player of the season was so far, who would you say?
I suspect a fair few hands will go up for a certain 28-year-old Kotka-born freebie who sports the number 22 shirt.
No-one could possibly have foreseen the amazing impact Teemu Pukki would have had at Carrow Road when he signed on July 1.
Even though he had nearing 100 career goals and 70 caps for Finland, much attention was on the lack of impact he’d had during a spell at Celtic.
Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber saw something in him - and boy have they been rewarded.
Only 21 players in Norwich’s history have scored 15 or more goals in their first season - he’s done that with 20 games to go,
Pukki’s goals have come from 47 shots (29 on target) - a strike rate of 32.pc. If he carries on like this he’ll be edging 30 for the campaign.
All but one have come in the box, showing what a true poacher he is. Add in the “Pukki time” element to his late finishes plus four assists and a 75pc pass completion rate, and you’ll see why he’s getting to be the Finn-ished article (sorry, i couldn’t resist it).
But the point I want to make this week is that the rise and rise of the Canaries this term has been the sheer volume of those contributing to the Canary cause. A one man team we most certainly are not.
Off the pitch Messrs Farke and Webber deserve immense credit.
After a tough 2017/18 they have provided inspiration, shrewdness and nous to reinvigorate the club to a point none of us had predicted.
I’ve seen some classy City players in time. Mo Leitner is definitely one of them.
There’s no doubt his omission has been a key reason why Norwich have dropped from the real peak of this campaign.
He provides a unique calmness and control. His 85pc pass completion rate is staggering and he averages 75 passes per 90 minutes. I can’t wait to have him back.
Marco Stiepermann has been with us for nearly 18 months and for a while I didn’t get him.
However, his emergence as the powerful number 10 has been amazing.
You know I’m going to big up Dereham’s finest.
I’m so proud that Todd Cantwell is shining this year.
He forced his way into the team on merit and has absolutely proved he’s deserved the head coach’s faith with his guille and vision.
Also in the middle of the park Alex Tettey just keeps going and going.
Forget the idea of him struggling to keep up with the workload. He’s played in all but two matches and just reached the 200 game mark for City. He also has an 85pc pass rate, along with 55 clearances, six blocks and 42 interceptions.
What a signing Emi Buendia has been - and I’m convinced he’s only going to get more influential.
Onel Hernandez hasn’t reached the real heights he’s capable of but four goals and six assists can’t be sniffed at.
We have seen less of Mario Vrancic and Tom Trybull than we may have expected. But when they’ve been on the pitch both have been exemplary in their commmitment.
Vrancic’s nine tackles and 44 passes at the Hawthorns was testament to that attitude.
Jordan Rhodes is one of us. Fact!
He may have only started nine league games but his influence on (and I really sense off the pitch) has been fantastic.
That leveller on Saturday with his first touch was quality and there are certainly more goals to come from him,
Moving backwards, what an impact Max Aarons has had.
Thrown into the derby at Portman Road, the 19-year-old looks like a seasoned pro and there’s little doubt he’s been linked with a £15m move. What a future he has.
Jamal Lewis only made his debut just over a year ago but played more games than anyone else in 2018. We’re so lucky to have such a great full back pairing.
Christoph Zimmermann - another decent free transfer - has been hailed by Farke as his most consistent defender and the man mountain is my first choice centre half along with Timm Klose.
The Swiss has been questioned for being up for the fight some times but his 71pc aerial duel rate is mighty impressive.
Ben Godfrey - who I tip as a future City captain - is an emerging force and as the long, long season goes on will be crucial, along with Grant Hanley.
I haven’t been Tim Krul’s biggest fan but he’s making some key saves and I really believe his experience will be invaluable as the promotion race hots up.
I’ve not mentioned everyone in the squad and don’t bet against someone like Dennis Srbeny, Louis Thompson or Kenny McLean to really take their chance when it comes and emerge as a hero.
Spying is cheating
The extraordinary “spygate” story has certainly divided opinion in the football world.
Some are relaxed about it, argue it is just another example of gaining an advantage over rivals in modern football and don’t think Marcelo Bielsa did anything wrong.
I’m certainly in the other camp of those who believe the Leeds manager was bang out of order in sending an undercover spy to watch Derby’s training session.
He brazenly admitted doing it when he was found out by the Rams and said he had been up to it for years.
I think it’s sinister, totally against the spirit of our beloved game and is cheating.
There are so many videos and stats available to clubs as they weigh up their opponents.
To hide someone in the bushes trying to get the lowdown on the line-up and formation is wrong, full stop.
While it would clearly be beneficial for the Canaries for Leeds to be punished, I think the action should be against Bielsa.
Magpies can fly high again
I followed the Canaries’ excellent draw at the Hawthorns on Saturday while watching the Magpies of Dereham as they began a new era in the club’s history.
After the departure of former manager Neal Simmons, it was the first game in which Adam Gusterson, Olly Willis and Chris Linehan were at the helm.
I was sad to see Simmo leave Aldiss Park.
He is a great guy who was an integral part of the club’s progress in recent years.
This has been a tough season and with the team bottom of the Bostik League North, the top brass felt they needed a change.
I wish Simmo all the best and am sure he will get another job in football.
Gus, Olly and Chris have a great pedigree in the local game and had clearly lifted the players in the match against high-flying Heybridge Swifts - managed by a certain Julian Dicks.
Dereham eventually went down 3-1 but there were enough positive signs to believe the Magpies can begin to fly again.