Encouraging first impressions from City newboy Normann
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There is always an air of anticipation surrounding the first viewing of a new addition, but that felt particularly pertinent for Mathias Normann's Norwich City debut.
For regular consumers of the Canaries, the desire to sign a holding midfielder was emphasised by what unfolded in the opening four matches of the new Premier League season.
After Oliver Skipp returned to Tottenham after an eye-catching season long loan with Norwich during their record breaking Championship triumph, the attention quickly turned to how they would fill the void left by the Spurs man.
City's pursuit of Normann was lengthy. It began with initial contact in April and eventually concluded on the Sunday before the transfer window closed. It included a few knocked back offers and a persuasive phone call from Daniel Farke.
Normann is now a City player and his opening outing against Watford contained encouraging signs of what potentially may be to come from the Norwegian.
For all the talk about his profile and characteristics, the 25-year-old did appear comfortable operating that deeper central position within City's 4-3-3 and acted as the firefighter they require in certain situations.
Unlike Skipp and long-serving defensive midfielder Alex Tettey, Normann does have the ability to make long-range and progressive passes consistently.
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There were a few examples of his passing range and ability to switch the play, with the most impressive arriving as he clipped the ball into Teemu Pukki's path for the equalising goal.
In City's most productive spell after the interval, it was his ability to break up play that provided a springboard for the likes of Billy Gilmour and Brandon Williams to join the attacking phases.
There were moments where he was able to halt both Joshua King and Jeremy Ngakia that were particularly impressive.
In the 32nd minute, Normann broke from his deeper position and initiated a high press that forced Watford into a mistake. That helped swing the momentum into City's favour just before they scored their equaliser.
His numbers back up the eye test also. Only Gilmour made more tackles that led to City reclaiming possession and both of Normann's interventions came in the defensive third of the pitch, showcasing the Norwegian's willingness to put his foot in.
No City player made more blocks than Normann (2) and he also managed to record three clearances from inside their own penalty area. These metrics offer some early indications that he could provide some defensive protection as the season develops.
Despite those positive numbers and green shoots, the most galling moment was when Normann allowed King to swan past him into space to deliver a cross that Ismalia Sarr turned into the net to reclaim the Hornets advantage.
That was especially frustrating when you consider Normann was on hand to clear a cross from the same player just three minutes before the second goal.
His long throws also lacked the length that was visible during his international appearances for Norway. If City can work them into the way they play, they could provide another opportunity for the Canaries to construct a goal-scoring chance.
Normann has played football for both Rostov in the Russian Premier League and on the international stage, but a disjointed pre-season means he is still playing catch up due to fitness.
Whilst he didn't tire to the same extent as Josh Sargent, there was a noticeable drop off in his recoveries during transitions.
His substitution did see Norwich move to a 4-2-3-1 formation and that did spark an uplift in pressure and territory but did lead to them being more susceptible to counter attacks from Watford's powerful attacking front three.
Irrespective of what direction City's head coach opts to head in for their trip to face Everton next weekend, it seems likely that Normann will be included in the starting line up.
VERDICT: Plenty of promise but Normann did seem to fatigue as the game entered its closing stages.
He was seemingly more at home in that holding midfield position compared to on-loan Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour and has a sense of adventure that isn't visible in the previous occupiers of that particular role.
Above all, there is a positional understanding and a desire to do the basics correctly. Normann was combative in his nature and poured water over a handful of Watford attacks.
If that performance can be replicated on a consistent basis, he may just be the midfielder Norwich were hoping to find.
RATING: 6 out of 10