City report card: Red card and injuries leave Drmic facing another fresh start
Josip Drmic arrived at Norwich City with the intention of getting his stuttering career back into gear - but instead the Switzerland striker is facing up to another fresh start.
The 28-year-old managed more appearances than in his last two Borussia Monchengladbach seasons combined, yet only managed half as many goals.
Three in 24 matches for the Canaries meant Drmic was unable to provide consistent competition for Teemu Pukki, with just one of those goals scored in the Premier League and only five of his appearances being top-flight starts.
In fact, he released more dance songs than scored Premier League goals last season.
The man who brought us Euro Pop tracks No Tomorrow and Cinderella, with suitably ‘stylish’ videos, had the ingredients to become a bit of a cult hero - if he could score some goals.
Yet a poor tackle during the final Carrow Road game of the campaign, with City already down to 10 men but clinging on at 0-0 against Burnley with Emi Buendia already dismissed, earned him a red card. That left his already downtrodden team-mates with a mountain to climb, with the Clarets eventually winning 2-0.
Drmic missed the 5-0 defeat at Manchester City on the final day, as the already relegated Canaries extended their miserable club record losing streak to 10 matches - so still has two games of his suspension to serve at the start of the 2020-21 season, as does Buendia.
It’s understood the forward is now seen as surplus to Daniel Farke’s requirements however, speaking to Swiss radio station Radio SRF within days of the season ending and saying: “We are in talks. I still have a two-year contract but in this business, you never know. I can imagine both: to go or to stay.”
He went on to talk about it being “cool” to play in the Premier League and admitted that a return to Switzerland was in his mind but that he wanted “more adventures” at the highest level possible.
Speaking of his role during City’s disappointing season, Drmic moaned: “It was very hard and very difficult. We were always the underdog and sat back most of the time with our ‘parked bus’.
“For a striker, it’s the worst: you have little action in front of you and can’t do what you can do best.”
While that may have been a fair point, yet again it was injury that played a big role for a player who had finished as the third highest scorer in the Bundesliga in 2014 behind Robert Lewandowski and Mario Mandzukic, scoring 17 goals despite Nuernberg being relegated.
Ever since that impressive campaign however Drmic had seen his time with Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg and Gladbach regularly interrupted by injury issues, opting to move on a free transfer last summer.
Pre-season was looking encouraging, finishing as City’s top scorer with four goals thanks to a hat-trick during a 5-1 friendly win at Luton, yet after a brief cameo during the 4-1 loss at Liverpool on the opening night, he missed the next two top-flight games and a League Cup trip to League Two side Crawley, which had looked an ideal place for his first start.
It turned out his first appearance in Farke’s starting XI wouldn’t arrive until the end of January.
He did return from his initial hamstring strain with a series of cameos from the bench, coming on in seven of the next nine games and showing plenty of willing, including some decent hold-up play to hold on to the famous 3-2 victory over Manchester City.
That run also included his first goal, closing down Aston Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton after a poor back-pass from Tyrone Mings before turning into an empty net to score a late consolation during a dreadful 5-1 home defeat.
It was during the damaging 2-0 loss to Watford in early November when his hamstring gave up on him though, hopping painfully during the latter stages and missing the next two months.
His second goal came at Burnley in the FA Cup in late January, turning into an empty net after Lukas Rupp had seen a shot saved and the third came on a great night at Tottenham in the fifth round, bundling in an equaliser and playing the full 120 minutes as the Canaries eventually won on penalties.
A few days later he was brought on at half-time and added real urgency alongside Pukki during the second half of a 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United, heading just wide and being denied by a brilliant goal-line save from Blades keeper Dean Henderson.
Then came lockdown and three months later, although he started five of City’s 10 games after the restart, chances were few and far between as things went from bad to worse for Farke’s team.
Drmic quite probably has the ability to score plenty of goals in the Championship but whether his body could stand up to the intensity of one of the world’s toughest leagues is a different issue, which means that red card against Burnley could well prove to be an unhappy farewell.