City report card: Klose must prove fitness if he is to resume influential role
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It was easy to feel sorry for Timm Klose as he was forced to dive straight back in to the Premier League deep end for the Norwich City cause at the end of a season ruined by injury.
Optimism was building for the resumption of the Canaries’ campaign, sitting six points from safety and with nine games to try and save their top-flight status, five of which were at home against favourable opposition. Daniel Farke even looked set to have four centre-backs to choose from. That didn’t last long though.
In the build-up to the restart against Southampton it was revealed that Grant Hanley and Christoph Zimmermann had both been ruled out for the remainder of the season by hamstring injures, which meant Klose would get no opportunity to ease his way back to full fitness after a serious knee injury.
Instead the 32-year-old would be starting his first league game for City in 18 months, since scoring a crucial Championship equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Brentford on New Year’s Day of 2019.
The experienced and popular Switzerland international had missed just one half of the opening 20 matches of the 2018-19 season, with his passing ability proving an important part of the ‘Farke-ball’ style which would seal a title triumph.
Yet he tweaked a knee in the warm-up ahead of a 3-2 home win over Bolton in December and missed three games, then returned for three matches before missing a month to get the injury properly sorted, only to be kept on the fringes by the form of Ben Godfrey during the closing months of the season.
After promotion however it was expected that Klose’s top-level past would make him a pivotal player, as a centre-back signed from Wolfsburg for around £8million in January 2016.
It’s all been part of a roller-coaster ride in England for the Frankfurt-born defender, who admitted he found it difficult to adjust to the rough and tumble of the Championship to begin with.
So he was returning to the Premier League with over 100 Canaries appearances to his name and with over 75 appearances in the German top flight with Nuernberg and Wolfsburg to draw upon. Yet more injury frustration awaited though.
Klose didn’t feature during the pre-season games in Germany having had minor surgery to clean out his knee during the summer and after three friendly appearances, he missed the final warm-up game against Toulouse with a tight hip, which then extended into missing the first two games of the season.
After returning to the bench during the 3-2 home defeat to Chelsea, a belated start to the season came away to League Two side Crawley in the League Cup second round. Just 27 minutes into a humiliating 1-0 defeat Klose’s season was over.
After limping away from a heavy collision with a Crawley player, the Swiss defender would find that damage to his posterior cruciate ligament would leave him on crutches and with his knee in a brace for a month as he faced a season of rehabilitation.
He returned to training in March and was in contention for the closing stages of the season, only for the Covid-19 pandemic to bring a three-month suspension, but when Southampton arrived at Carrow Road in June he was back in the starting XI.
It proved too much of an ask for him to recover full form and fitness though, making eight appearances as City slumped to relegation, roaring his frustration at being unable to repel aerial threats after some of the 14 goals conceded during the seven league games he played. The other was a more positive performance in the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester United, when Klose took one for the team after Ben Godfrey had been caught out of position, hauling down Odion Ighalo and being sent off. Had City have gone on to win, it would have proved a good decision, but Harry Maguire’s scrappy goal broke yellow hearts late in extra-time.
He subsequently missed a 4-0 surrender at Arsenal and gave the ball away ahead of Brighton’s 1-0 win at Carrow Road, which all but confirmed relegation. Michail Antonio’s four-goal haul sealed City’s fate the following weekend, as West Ham dominated City’s defence, leaving Klose sat despondently in the home dug-out after the game.
A hamstring strain spared him the trip to Manchester City on the final day, as a beaten Norwich squad were thrashed 5-0 by Pep Guardiola’s superstars and like Hanley and Zimmermann, it is fitness that will determine his role in a refreshed squad.
With a contract until 2022, he has the ability to again be one of the best defenders in the Championship - if his body allows him to regain the form shown during the first half of City’s title-winning season.