From Cantwell to Gilmour. The key issues for new boss

Billy Gilmour looked set to be heading back to Chelsea in January if his Norwich City game time remained limited

Billy Gilmour looked set to be heading back to Chelsea in January if his Norwich City game time remained limited - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City will unveil Daniel Farke’s successor in the coming days. On the pitch and off it the new head coach will need to make a mark quickly. Paddy Davitt maps out five of the more pressing issues they face.

1. What do points make? Prizes 

Oblique television game show reference for those supporters of a certain vintage. For Norwich City’s new head coach, it means getting a tune out of a squad bottom of the Premier League before the new appointee have really got their feet under the table of the manager’s desk at Colney.

Daniel Farke’s parting gift was a priceless three points that brought them back in range of the clubs above them in the standings, and left newly monied Newcastle as the only club in the English top flight without a win. 

Stuart Webber’s comments, in the official statement announcing Farke’s departure after the victory at Brentford, cited an urgency to give the new coach every chance to retain the club’s top flight status.

With Southampton and Wolves at Carrow Road next, before a trip to Eddie Howe's Magpies, that looks a run of fixtures City could harvest points.

Whether you want to call it a ‘new manager’ bounce or just that sense of turning the page, and a fresh start for every single member of City’s squad, the new coach must extract a seam of productivity in the opening month.

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Do that, and City’s Premier League status looks far healthier, but it will also inject renewed belief into a fan base and a set of players striving to shed the rather uncharitable tag of Premier League whipping boys. 

Todd Cantwell was featuring for Norwich City's under-23s in the final weeks of Daniel Farke's tenure

Todd Cantwell was featuring for Norwich City's under-23s in the final weeks of Daniel Farke's tenure - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

2. Todd Cantwell. Unlock 

One immediate beneficiary of Farke’s exit is a return to the first team fold for Cantwell.

Take the midfielder at his own words, in a social media post the day after the night before, when he thanked the man who gave him his big break while acknowledging they did not always see eye to eye.

With that level of diplomacy perhaps the Dereham ace would be better off at the United Nations.

For all the personal and fitness issues that limited his involvement in the past two months, banishing Cantwell to the under-23s, while Norwich struggled for any genuine creativity or attacking endeavour prior to Brentford, was one of the more baffling aspects of the final part of the Farke era. 

Cantwell may need handling with care off the park but on it he showed both last season, in a second Championship title winning campaign, and more pertinently for a sustained spell in the last top flight bid, he has the quality to make a difference.

Harnessing that within a group who have been heavily reliant on Teemu Pukki is the challenge for the new head coach. That contractual situation bubbling in the background should really be incidental to both parties. 

No resolution in the weeks and months to come will see City exercise an option next summer. Norwich need Cantwell fit and firing. Cantwell needs the Premier League stage to showcase his talents if, in time, he views his future lies elsewhere.

Kicking his heels at development level is the worst of both worlds.  

3. Clock is ticking for Billy 

Talking of players in the Farke wilderness, at least Chelsea loanee Gilmour had the consolation of a front row seat from the Norwich substitutes’ bench in recent weeks.

Gilmour arrived to a huge fanfare in the summer, given his displays at the Euros for Scotland and his soaring reputation as part of a Blues’ squad who had just lifted the Champions League.

More than that, he looked the type of composed midfield operator who could set tempo, link back to front and get City playing through the lines. 

Sadly for Gilmour, it was the deep end and reverse gear required against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester. Against the Foxes, his failure to halt Kelechi Iheanacho led eventually to the visitors’ winner. With Mathias Normann’s arrival he found himself out of the starting line up.

For a player presumably enticed for his work on the ball it felt a harsh demotion based on what he did not offer as a defensive midfield workhorse.

City’s struggles thereafter to marry defensive resolve with attacking punch left him peering against the glass. With only Scotland duty for any respite.

No surprise then  that around the recent return to his parent club all the chatter was of January recalls. Had the current, intolerable situation for Gilmour not altered it was only a matter of when, not if, he packed his bags.

But where does he fit in the new coach’s plans? Construct the type of midfield around him that affords the youngster that defensive protection and it may not be an irretrievable situation.  

NCFC Extra: Norwich City keeper puts club before country

4. Left, right, left right 

Brandon Williams more than justified his inclusion at Brentford with a barnstorming display of defensive bite and counter-attacking threat. It was on a par with the manner he duelled against Arsenal’s Pepe earlier in the season.

Alas, for the right-footed Manchester United loanee too many of his other appearances fell below such a high watermark.

Should a new head coach be able to extract that level of consistency then there is no question he offers a viable option on the left side of the Norwich defence. Set against him is the naturally left-footed Dimi Giannoulis.

A fully-fledged Norwich player after all, following his own successful loan move from PAOK last season.

Giannoulis in a side surging forward offers a balance and an overlapping presence that under Farke injected some badly-needed width at times into a midfield concoction that had a propensity to search for pockets of space in congested central areas.

But his defensive soundness and ability to sense danger have been exposed routinely in a green and yellow shirt. Or a Greek shirt after conceding a match-deciding penalty against Spain on Thursday night.

In truth, neither player did enough under Farke to make a compelling case for inclusion as a first choice. Now a new head coach has to weigh up the variables, and attempt to crack the code.  

Christos Tzolis had limited Premier League game time under Daniel Farke

Christos Tzolis had limited Premier League game time under Daniel Farke - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

5. Wing twins 

Aside from the paucity of Premier League points on the board, the sight of Milot Rashica and Christos Tzolis scrabbling for minutes from the bench did nothing to assuage those disgruntled elements among Norwich’s fan base.

Much was made of a summer spend, which by City’s standards was unlike any previously undertaken. Even if one subtracts the club record fee they received for Emi Buendia, which allowed Stuart Webber to oversee an ambitious drive to recruit some of the best young talent across the continent.

Prior to a Bundesliga relegation season at Werder, Rashica was seen as a hot prospect by well-established Premier League clubs. While Tzolis, to use Farke’s own sentiments, has the potential to be world class and was already among the best of his generation in a wide position across Europe.

When players pitch up in Norfolk with such pedigrees and sizeable transfer fees to see them underused each week did Farke few favours. It also brought heat on Webber’s recruitment, which he addressed prior to the Leeds defeat. 

Tzolis, clearly, is one for the future, but can a new head coach use him in the here and now?

While Rashica looked far more comfortable in an advanced position from the start at Brentford. His dart down the left led indirectly to Normann’s opener.

It feels like there is so much latent potential in wide areas. Using both is obviously part of a wider, more complex look at how City become far more potent in the final third at this level.

But whereas Farke found the answer elusive, his replacement must come up with a solution.