David Freezer: Duda provided more loan disappointment as early 2020 hope disappeared
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Loan players have become a rather contentious issue for Norwich City during recent seasons, with Ondrej Duda the latest to pass through Carrow Road without making much of an impact.
City allowed the Slovakia international to return to Hertha Berlin once relegation was confirmed, having only started two of the seven games since the season restarted, with chances of a revival with his parent club already looking good under a new coach.
According to the official Premier League statistics the Canaries’ headline January signing left without a goal or an assist from 10 appearances, although it does seem a tad harsh to not give him an assist from his debut, when he would have had a goal were it not for a great save from Bournemouth defender Steve Cook.
The inevitable red card and a welcome successful penalty from Teemu Pukki sealed a vital win back in January - one of just five that Daniel Farke’s team have been able to enjoy during their progressively miserable league campaign.
Unfortunately however, Duda was to suffer from Naismith Syndrome. A bright debut featuring sharp passes and swift turns hinted at a loanee who could make a real impact. After all, he didn’t score 11 goals and assist another six in the Bundesliga last season through luck.
Indeed this was a player who Farke had described as being worth around £25million last summer, before he fell out of favour after a couple of changes of head coach at Hertha. There were further glimpses at Tottenham, including the through-ball which saw Max Aarons brought down for another successful Pukki penalty.
However, then his creative progress rather stalled, before the significant three-month break truly set him back. As Farke calmly explained earlier this week, we may have seen better from Duda were he not in a team having to spend so much time defending - without most of their defence.
You may wonder, why did City sign him then, if he wasn’t suited to a relegation battle? But let’s not forget that in January hopes were high that a brighter second half of the season was on the way, with Grant Hanley and Christoph Zimmermann returning to finally strengthen the defence during a run of games which really should have yielded more points.
So for as dire as it all seems now after a barely believable eight successive defeats since the restart, the signing of Duda had been made with optimism that better was to come. Unfortunately that optimism didn’t last long, in very strange circumstances, particularly once Hanley, Zimmermann and Sam Byram were claimed by the injury curse again.
You could see that Duda had a quality touch and an eye for a pass, although he clearly is not as good from set-pieces as he thinks he is. It seemed to me to be mainly a case of a player not quite adjusting to the pace and intensity of the Premier League.
So he goes down alongside Patrick Roberts and Ibrahim Amadou as loans which didn’t fit City’s requirements.
Had Amadou not had to persevere in defence for so long, we may have seen better from him in midfield, but his passing ability did not seem to fit Farke’s style. The Sevilla loanee is currently battling relegation with Leganes in the Spanish top flight but despite wins over Valencia and Espanyol recently, they are four points adrift with two games remaining, seemingly leaving their fightback too late.
Roberts looked set to be a genuine wide attacking option during pre-season but we barely got a chance to assess him in a competitive Norwich game, other than hitting the post during an embarrassing League Cup loss at Crawley.
The Manchester City loanee scored one and set up the other as Middlesbrough earned a vital 2-1 win at Reading on Tuesday, after an injury had initially looked like it was going to ruin that stint as well.
Schalke keeper Ralf Fahrmann is another who we couldn’t really judge but thanks to the form of Tim Krul that wasn’t too much of a worry for Canaries fans.
So do Farke and Webber have a blind spot with loan players? You can stick Felix Passlack and Marcus Edwards on the pile as evidence to back that theory, but Angus Gunn and Jordan Rhodes offer pretty substantial arguments to the contrary.
Mo Leitner was also a loan signing initially, before playing an integral role in the Championship title win, while Harrison Reed was reasonably consistent during his stint as well.
Edwards, by the way, the Tottenham loanee who barely played for City, has found his feet in the Portuguese top flight and has eight goals and nine assists from 34 games for Vitoria Guimaraes.
Passlack has spent the season at the wrong end of the Dutch top flight with Fortuna Sittard, playing regularly while still on loan from Borussia Dortmund. Reed has been a regular in midfield for Fulham other than when a calf injury ruined the middle part of his season and looks to be heading into a Championship play-off campaign.
Perhaps in future however, City fans won’t get too excited about a loanee just because they are from a bigger club. We probably should have learned our lesson from the Harry Kane story.
As with all transfers, there’s no guarantee that a move is going to work out, for a whole variety of reasons. But this season’s loan failures have proved costly - both financially and on the pitch.