Is Vrancic the man to build City’s midfield unit around?
PUBLISHED: 06:00 28 January 2020
If Norwich City are to survive in the Premier League this season, then they’ll need a hero.
Mario Vrancic is no stranger to a big occasion, it was his performances that helped propel City over the line in the Championship.
His winning goal at Villa Park secured the title for the Canaries at Villa Park in May but does the Bosnian possess the attributes capable of helping retain their Premier League status?
Daniel Farke has commented how City will be looking to complete a 'little miracle' in the last 14 league games this season.
The German has also gone on record of stating how the skill set of his current crop doesn't lend itself to implementing a defensively robust style of play.
Improvements in performances have been noticeable, with City's current form making for relatively positive reading.
The damage done in the opening half of the season has backed them into a corner, however, with Farke's men being forced to swing big rather than opt for defensive organisation.
Upgrading plan A is the key, City will not scrap their blueprint in search for short-term success. The philosophy Farke desires could lend itself to the abilities Vrancic offers.
The formula of City's midfield has changed somewhat since their title-winning success, balance has been difficult to discover and pragmatism has been the order of the day.
Technical proficiency is key to asserting Farke's philosophy onto games, with the midfield the source of connecting City's patient build-up play with their chief creators.
Vrancic isn't short of technique. His range of passing and ability to locate space allows City to progress up the pitch.
His highlight reel from City's FA Cup victory against Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday was impressive. Technically, Vrancic is City's best deep-lying midfield option.
Alex Tettey has been a dependable alternative to City's desire for effective ball-playing midfielders and Kenny McLean has provided the energy to support City in their defensive and offensive phases of play.
In Vrancic, City have a playmaker who possesses the ability to break defensive lines with his incisive passing.
Reference his perfectly-weighted clipped pass into Lukas Rupp at Turf Moor or his ball to Teemu Pukki in the VAR controversy at Carrow Road in December that robbed him of a glorious assist as further evidence of his ability.
Small margins within games have been pivotal to the outcome of matches, with City unable to capitalise on the momentum they've constructed within games.
To profit from those moments, City will be depending on consistent sources of quality and in Vrancic, they possess an option capable of shouldering some of the offensive productivity.
Intrinsic to his involvement in any side will be his ability to form part of a wider defensive structure when City aren't in possession of the ball.
At Old Trafford, City's midfield - which contained the Bosnian- lacked balance and control.
His physicality is an issue in equal measure, he doesn't possess the pace or energy of McLean, but accompanied by Ondrej Duda and Tettey, he could be given a structure to thrive.
The addition of Lukas Rupp may also allow Farke to deploy Vrancic in midfield, as the tenacity of the German makes City's right-side stronger.
Rupp has helped City prevent the overloads in central midfield because of his instinct to occupy a more central position out of possession. That could be the remedy to Vrancic's defensive flaws.
His performance at Old Trafford aside, Vrancic has proved he can operate within a cohesive midfield.
The 30-year-old provides top-flight experience from his spells with Paderborn and Darmstadt in the Bundesliga also.
Fitness issues have prevented the Bosnian from grasping the mantle in City's midfield but a stand-out performance at Turf Moor may have catapulted him back into Farke's thoughts for a crunch match against Newcastle United on Saturday.
The reality is, if City can get Vrancic onto the ball in positive positions, then he will weave his magic and aid their offensive phases of play.
His lack of pace in the transition means City will need an energetic midfield around him or they run the risk of being exposed on the counter attack.
If City are to complete a great escape, then they need a fully-fit Vrancic firing on all cylinders. When the Bosnian plays well, so do the Canaries.