David Freezer: Six things learned as City’s young guns ensure pre-season starts with a win
PUBLISHED: 06:59 09 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:27 09 July 2018
As Norwich City get pre-season off to a winning start, just, David Freezer looks back on six things learned from the early events of the new campaign.
1 – Pukki has potential to excite
Reading too much into the pre-season performances of players is always a risky strategy but Teemu Pukki was certainly a lively presence during his first appearance in a Norwich City shirt.
The 28-year-old Finland international played the first 45 minutes of the friendly on the right side of an attacking trident, with Onel Hernandez on the left and Dennis Srbeny leading the line.
The former Brondby and Celtic forward looked sharp, quick and tenacious, looking keen to receive the ball but not quite able to link up properly with Srbeny.
His weak shot from the edge of the box was City’s first real chance but lit up The Walks with a nutmeg of Ryan Fryatt which drew impressed cheers soon after, only to see keeper Alex Street thwart his cross.
With a couple of strong runs also keeping Lynn on the back foot, Pukki has the potential to become a crowd favourite – but it’s goals that City need.
2 – Shape will be key for Raggett
Experimentation is the name of the game for head coach Daniel Farke during pre-season.
City’s boss found some defensive success with a formation switch to include three central defenders and wing-backs midway through last season before easing back to a 4-2-3-1 shape in the pursuit of goals.
The back three returned against the Linnets and saw Sean Raggett given a chance as the right prong, with Christoph Zimmermann central and Timm Klose on the left.
The 25-year-old made two brief appearances after returning from his Lincoln loan in January and his future may well now depend on whether Farke intends to stick with that back three, with Rotherham boss Paul Warne at The Walks to scout his rumoured loan target.
As with most of his senior team-mates, Raggett looked a little slow as the fitness sessions took their toll but his aerial power was once again clear for all to see.
3 – Felix has to adjust quickly
Deploying a 3-4-3 formation allowed Felix Passlack to make his first appearance as a City player at right wing-back.
The Borussia Dortmund loanee certainly has plenty of pace and looked full of energy against Lynn, just days after joining for the season.
As with most of the German recruits who have arrived under the current regime, Passlack looked a little caught out by the physicality of English football on occasions and was left surprised that a foul hadn’t been given in his favour after being challenged.
That is something the Germany U21 international seemed to adapt to quickly though and his attacking bursts showed great promise, with fine control teeing up Pukki’s early shot.
He also appears to have an eye for the spectacular, shaping up to lash a volley goalwards after Moritz Leitner had floated a great pass across to him – only to fire well wide.
4 – Srbeny’s search for confidence
While Dennis Srbeny, Onel Hernandez and Moritz Leitner were all January arrivals, many City fans are hoping a true reflection of their abilities will be provided on the back of a full pre-season.
For Srbeny in particular there is clear room for improvement, after one goal in 14 games for the big German and a mix of both promise and looking well off the Championship pace.
The striker’s relationship with Pukki showed promise but didn’t quite pay off.
An exciting Hernandez run down the right in the 33rd minute saw Srbeny loop a header over and Pukki threaded the forward through just before the break but he pulled a low shot just beyond the far post from the right of the six-yard box.
The big moment came early in the second half though, when a loose pass from a Lynn defender gave him the chance to shoot from the edge of the box – only to clatter the crossbar. Time to build some confidence.
5 – Finishing woes for Wildschut
Yanic Wildschut, a player to excite and frustrate in equal measure.
The Dutchman’s pace and power have never been in doubt and was soon in evidence after he came on at half-time at The Walks. It’s his final ball that’s the issue.
With the bar still shaking from Srbeny’s shot, Leitner kept the chance alive and squared to Wildschut to finish from 10 yards, only to inexplicably thump the ball wide rather then test the keeper with a placed effort.
His pace was then integral to the winner, tearing free after Adam Phillips had won possession in midfield and crossing simply to allow Adam Idah to slot home from close range in the 73rd minute. That’s the good side of his play but another thumped finish into the side-netting late on was again not good enough, when he should have scored.
That lack of final ball is why he was loaned to Cardiff last year – and why he was part of the younger team in the second half at Lynn.
6 – Under-23s take their chances
Under-23s boss Matt Gill took charge of City’s team from half-time and fielded nine of his young players on the hour with the fitness work of pre-season clearly catching up to the senior players.
Max Aarons had come on at right-back at the break and on 60 minutes was joined by the likes of Idah, Phillips, Aston Oxborough and Timi Odusina join the fray.
Former Liverpool hopeful Phillips in particular looked good, setting the tone in midfield and starting the moves for both goals which dug City out of a hole as they trailed to the Linnets.
His tackle allowed forward Anthony Spyrou to thread through the versatile Devonte Aransibia, who calmly rolled under the keeper with his left boot, before again winning the ball and setting Wildschut away to set up Idah for the winner.
With new boys Ciaren Jones and Caleb Richards also featuring, it was a very positive 30 minutes for the young guns.