Connor Southwell: The evolution of City's centre back pursuit

King's Lynn Town v Norwich

Andrew Omobamidele is one of four central defensive options currently available to Daniel Farke. - Credit: Archant

Transfer windows often evolve in ways that nobody could have foreseen when planning at the outset. That is the case for Norwich City, who have seen their priorities shift somewhat.

Had supporters been asked to fill in a questionnaire immediately after the curtain fell on the Championship season on positions that required strengthening, central defence would have been near the top of the list. 

That was a view shared by those in positions of power at Colney. City were targeting a big-money addition to add significant quality to their options ahead of another tilt at Premier League survival. 

City did have a brief look at Marc Guehi before the finances involved blew them out of the water. The Chelsea youngster has now joined Crystal Palace in a deal reportedly worth £18m. They did hold an interest in Sebastiaan Bornauw but his situation at Koln changed after they won their relegation play-off. 

The Belgian has now signed for Wolfsburg, his name another crossed off City's list of targets this summer. 

Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo was also a name considered. That hasn't moved on since those initial reports surfaced earlier on in the summer. Marco Silva will want time to assess the defender in pre-season. 

The interest in Kristoffer Ajer was well-documented. The Canaries liked the Norwegian enough to table a bid worth a total of £10m. 

Most Read

Celtic didn't play ball and weren't willing to drop their valuation for a player who has one-year remaining on his deal. In a high stakes game of poker, the Scottish club appear close to coming out on top by extracting £13.5m out of newly-promoted Brentford. 

One bid in May was the start and end of those conversations involving Ajer. There was frustration at the way Celtic handled the situation.

Suddenly, a lot of the avenues City were heading down have been closed off. That doesn't mean their search for a defender has concluded, but it has evolved. Largely due to a range of factors. 

The first is finance. Norwich have a limited pot of money to spend in this window. In order to complete the business they wish to do prior to the window closing in late August, that will have been shared around. 

They believe they can strengthen all their desired areas of the squad with the budget they currently possess. With room there to sign a couple of players for club-record fees. 

Given Ben Gibson has arrived for £8m, a fee that hasn't impacted their budget for this window, and they have Grant Hanley in the building, the feeling is any new recruit would have to offer an upgrade in quality. 

Celtic's Kristoffer Ajer celebrates scoring his sides second goal during the Ladbrokes Scottish Prem

Celtic's Kristoffer Ajer was a target for Norwich City this summer but looks to be Brentford bound. - Credit: PA

Their list was ambitious. It contained players they felt were of European quality. Suddenly, their options are somewhat limited given the finance they possess. That's why they didn't up the ante on Ajer. 

That said, if such an opportunity did arise, as was the case with Pierre Lees-Melou, Norwich would be alive to such an event. A centre back remains on their list of priorities, but perhaps not as near the top as it did a month or so ago. 

One reason for that is that Andrew Omobamidele has kicked on significantly from when he departed Colney for his summer holidays in May. 

The defender is on the cusp of the Ireland national team and the pace of his development has caught some by surprise. At 19, he boasts a better physical profile than Ben Godfrey did at the same age. 

He has returned to Colney in tip top condition, enough to be considered as a credible option for the Premier League. 

Physically, he is mature. Technically, he is able. That may have pushed him up the pecking order. Pre-season feels significant for him and the overall dynamic of City's defensive options. There are elements of his game that require refinement, but as a coach, Daniel Farke has shown he is more than capable of improving young players. 

The loan route was one being considered by City, but at 19, they are wary of bringing in another youth prospect from a Premier League club and blocking Omobamidele's pathway in the process. 

With only one Premier League loan spot left available to them, it's one they have to use wisely and the prospect of a return for Oliver Skipp, whilst unlikely, isn't completely out of the equation.

The mantra this summer has been about upping the quality and reducing the quantity of options available to them. That means not signing players that aren't going to improve the standard of options available to Farke. 

In order to arm the City boss correctly, Webber and City's recruitment team need to ensure his squad is fully loaded with the right options to tackle the top-flight crossfire. 

Within that there is a risk. But City feel they have areas that require major surgery, that was mapped out by Farke post-King's Lynn. They are short in midfield. They do want another striker after the evolution of Jordan Hugill's situation. Another setback for Sam Byram has added a full-back to their shopping list. 

That will cost money. In the case of a striker, it may end up proving a substantial sum. 

So there is a trade-off at play for City, do you spend a significant sum of cash on a defender that isn't an improvement on your current options or do you use that money to strengthen other areas of the team?

Opinions will differ on that question, but it appears the powers that be currently view the latter as the answer. 

Farke has proven throughout his time at City that he will favour young options over experience if he feels they are ready. Ask Jamal Lewis, who was thrust into the cold water at Birmingham after the Canaries were booed off against Brentford. 

Daniel Farke on the touchline
King's Lynn Town v Norwich

Daniel Farke has a good track record of bedding in young talent. - Credit: Archant

Ask Max Aarons. Who was thrown into the heat of battle in an East Anglian derby. Ask Ben Godfrey, who Farke identified as a centre back despite a productive season at Shrewsbury as a midfielder. If the City boss feels Omobamidele is ready to take the next step up, he will trust him to do so despite the noise.  

In the background, the haunting memories of the centre-back shortage will be etched into some people's minds. 

Internal conversations have already taken place. City feel they are in a position to keep their players fit. The sight of Ibrahim Amadou partnering Alex Tettey at Bournemouth still sends shivers down the spine. 

A fifth defensive option would alleviate any fears that such a situation would resurface. Norwich agree.

A centre back is still on their shopping list. They are still searching. But it has to be the right one rather than any old one. If they do bring one through the door, it will be on their terms. That's not to say, with over a month left in the window, that it doesn't evolve again. 

For now, the ball is in Omobamidele's court. He has been shown another door. It's up to him to smash it down again. 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus