Ian Clarke: Variety can be the spice of life in Norwich City’s promotion bid

17 September, 2020 - 06:00
Adam Idah sealed Norwich City's 1-0 opening day Championship win over Huddersfield 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Adam Idah sealed Norwich City's 1-0 opening day Championship win over Huddersfield Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

How many players would be an automatic name on the team sheet if you were Norwich City head coach?

Ben Gibson comes into strong contention for Norwich City's Championship trip to Bournemouth Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdBen Gibson comes into strong contention for Norwich City's Championship trip to Bournemouth Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I thought I’d start with a nice easy question...

Ahead of the Huddersfield season opener and then after the much-needed win, I’ve seen lots of Canary fans posting their first choice XIs - and there are so many different combinations.

We all have our favourites - and that has always been the case.

What gives me particular optimism about this season is the depth of our squad and variety at Daniel Farke’s disposal.

Teemu Pukki unselfishly set up Idah's goalTeemu Pukki unselfishly set up Idah's goal

So, who would I consider shoo-ins at the moment if everyone was fit and available?

Tim Krul is an absolute definite. He’s proved himself a great shot stopper, commanding presence and crucial leader on and off the pitch.

Max Aarons would also be straight in. We can’t guarantee he won’t be lured away before the end of the transfer window but with every passing day we can get more confident he’ll stay.

Then it gets interesting - and confirmation of the riches at our disposal.

Ben Gibson has not featured for Norwich City in the early Championship games Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdBen Gibson has not featured for Norwich City in the early Championship games Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I was very impressed with Xavi Quintilla at left back on Saturday.

He looked assured and composed - and gives quality in the delivery at set pieces (how many times have we yelled “Just get it over the first man”?)

The competition for that berth with Sam Byram will be a keen one. Remember he kept Jamal Lewis out of the team for periods during last term.

Naturally we’ll miss such a terrific player as Lewis (and I wish him all the very best on Tyneside). However, I am confident of the options there.

Adam Idah celebrates his winner after coming on as a substitute against Huddersfield. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesAdam Idah celebrates his winner after coming on as a substitute against Huddersfield. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

It may seem a bit contradictory to talk about the strength in the centre half positions when City leaked so many goals in the past couple of years and were so often outfought, outthought and outplayed in that area.

It has to say something about the depth, though, when a Swiss international who cost more than £7m is probably currently the fifth choice.

I thought Ben Godfrey looked lean and hungry at Huddersfield. He will face much tougher afternoons and the horrors at the end of the relegation campaign showed he has more to learn.

My preference would be for him to form a partnership with Ben Gibson, who I think will really bring Godfrey on another level.

Daniel Farke expects Bournemouth to be the team to beat this season  Picture:  Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdDaniel Farke expects Bournemouth to be the team to beat this season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

If Grant Hanley and Christoph Zimmermann can stay fit, there’s decent depth - and important competition.

So what about the engine room?

Any player tipped to be a future Tottenham captain must be a great prospect - and Oliver Skipp gave us an insight into his potential in West Yorkshire.

He reads the game well, is an excellent shield for the backline, drops deep to pick the ball up and has a decent tackle. He had a 87.5pc success pass rate while winning 14 duels.

Tim Krul enjoyed a quiet afternoonTim Krul enjoyed a quiet afternoon

Farke makes no secret that he’s the number one member of the Kenny McLean fan club and the Mayor and Skipp look to have those places sorted for now.

No-one must ever write off Alex Tettey while he is still at the club, and he offers an ever reliable back up along with Jacob Sorensen and Lukas Rupp.

Further forward we have a mouth-watering mix of options.

During the Pink Un Live Show last week, I (along with several others) tipped Kieran Dowell as player of the season.

Max Aarons put in a fine display at the John Smith's Stadium. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesMax Aarons put in a fine display at the John Smith's Stadium. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

For me it didn’t quite work out with him and Todd Cantwell at Huddersfield.

I think they’re both number 10s and Farke will need to decide on one of them. What a choice to have!

There’s been a big discussion this week about Emi Buendia who wants to get back in the Premier League - don’t we all!

Come on Emi, stick with us and you’ll be flying in the top flight with the Canaries next August.

Canaries players Tim Krul, left, and Xavi Quintilla ahead of kick-off at the John Smith's Stadium Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesCanaries players Tim Krul, left, and Xavi Quintilla ahead of kick-off at the John Smith's Stadium Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

He’s got such quality that he has to start for me, along with Onel Hernandez (who I thought was our best attacking force on Saturday).

Przemyslaw Placheta offers a terrific option from the bench and will scare the life out of defenders.

Remember in the midfield camp there are also the likes of Mario Vrancic, Marco Stiepermann and Josh Martin, who would walk into plenty of Championship teams.

Teemu Pukki is still my number one option up top.

Xavi Quintilla Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesXavi Quintilla Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

He may not be back to his prolific best but will be soon.

If you haven’t seen his assist for Adam Idah’s winner from the angle behind the goal you must. Pure quality.

Idah is living in dream land and what a lad to have at our club.

I love a number nine like Jordan Hugill and in a column about the virtues of variety, was a shrewd signing - and will have a big part to play in a long campaign.

The Norwich board watch on during the Sky Bet Championship match at the John Smiths Stadium, Huddersfield
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
12/09/2020The Norwich board watch on during the Sky Bet Championship match at the John Smiths Stadium, Huddersfield Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 12/09/2020

OTBC.

Worst of Twitter

I’m a huge fan of social media.

It can bring people together, give everyone a voice, spread good news and keep us all in touch.

I get so much of my football fix when I’m not at games from Twitter and Facebook.

If only social media could be contained to those positive aspects.

Sadly, we know that the various platforms are a place where disunity and hatred are spread too.

I’ve become fairly immune to much of the bile which is posted amid the great stuff.

But I was pretty shocked that someone set up a vile Twitter account to target Norwich fans.

Some readers will know what I’m referring to and were victims.

I won’t elaborate as I don’t want to give the bully behind it recognition.

The person needs to look at themselves and think about the impact of their actions.

Twitter should have a mechanism to block an account with the most offensive of swear words in its title.

Cracking work

I really feel for the team behind the scenes at Carrow Road at the moment.

They’ve had to deal with the fall-out from relegation and all that brings, and they’re facing how to cope with the additional loss of potentially tens of millions of pounds as fans can’t return to grounds in the usual way.

I’ve said in this column many times supporters should only be allowed back when it is safe to do so: the balance of limiting the potential for spreading the virus against giving us a chance to see our favourite team live is a tough one.

It looked as if the green light had been given for 8,000 fans to go to Carra and about 20,000 letters with very detailed guidelines were sent o season ticket holders.

I can only imagine how long it took to put it all together. It was then put on hold – until City got the nod yesterday to go ahead and allow 1,000 fans in for this weekend’s game against Preston.

Just proves that extensive planning and preparation didn’t go to waste. Well done.

Become a supporter

This newspaper company has followed Norwich City through good times and bad. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce in depth coverage that makes a measurable difference to our community. OTBC

Norwich City Video

Norwich City Audio

Norwich City Stats

The Pink Un magazine

cover
A must-read for any Norwich City fan with in-depth, straight-talking, analysis from the best writers around.
Purchase

Latest from the Pink Un - Norwich City Football Club News