City cast the net even wider in player search

Mathias Normann was a player Norwich City pursued all summer before securing his services

Mathias Normann was a player Norwich City pursued all summer before securing his services - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City may be braced for a quiet January transfer window but the work never stops behind the scenes as the Canaries strive for that recruitment edge. 

Given City’s struggles at the wrong end of the Premier League, the focus away from results on the pitch inevitably shifts to a club record outlay off it last summer. 

Mathias Normann and Milot Rashica have been hampered by injury, while the likes of young attacking duo Christos Tzolis and Josh Sargent are yet to establish themselves.

High profile loan signings Billy Gilmour and Brandon Williams have failed to have anywhere near the same impact as Olly Skipp’s previous Championship loan switch from Tottenham. 

That underlines the precarious nature of football recruitment, but Mariela Nisotaki has seen the transformation in how City operate from the inside. 

Nisotaki is celebrating five years with the Canaries this month, after initially joining in the Alex Neil era as a first team technical scout. Now she holds a key position working under head of recruitment Lee Dunn, and Webber, as the club’s head of emerging talent, since an overall revamp following the departure of Kieran Scott before the season.   

“I joined initially in January 2017 but after three months or so a lot of things changed when Stuart arrived as sporting director,” she said. “It was good to see that transformation.

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"I could see the difference, the culture changed, the environment changed, the philosophy is very clear and everything is a positive environment within which to work.

"I am very lucky to be here and I appreciate every opportunity I get to learn, not just about scouting, but all the other aspects, from working with very experienced people around you.  

“We are not a big department, in terms of size and numbers of people, but that is good because it makes the communication easier. Lee leads the department and I work closely with him. When it comes to actual recruitment Stuart leads that. 

“We try to be efficient. My own role now includes different markets. I have worked in the south American market before and now there is an opportunity to travel there again. It is a market we want to get more into, to invest more.

"We have started that process and we will look to build on that. We have a scout in Brazil and one in Argentina, so it was good going there recently and seeing the level.” 

City unveiled Dr John Iga as head of data, strategy and innovation in the summer, and that quest for marginal gains extends to recruitment. 

“We use data in our process and we are very lucky that we are well backed in that area because Stuart really believes in that,” said Nisotaki. “We have a lot of resources but we also have scouts working in their markets.

"Everyone fully trusts them and that is very important. We use data in the beginning of the process, especially maybe for the second tier leagues we look at as it helps in the beginning to flag players, and then we start watching them after.  

“In our bigger markets we have scouts who know those leagues very well and they will flag players and we try to help with the data.

"I would say it is a mixture.

"Video follows and if there is still interest then of course a live watch, when we are able to do that, so that communication with Lee and Stuart is vital.” 

Norwich City's head of emerging talent, Mariela Nisotaki, played her part in bringing Emi Buendia to Carrow Road

Norwich City's head of emerging talent, Mariela Nisotaki, played her part in the work that identified and later brought Emi Buendia to Carrow Road - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Nisotaki, interviewed on the latest podcast episode of the Training Ground Guru, insists a focus on data alone will never replace the ability to be able to spot a player.  

“The most important thing is to look for a player who is right for your team. If we all watched a game I think we can spot the best player,” she said. “That is not difficult to do but to spot the right player for your team is what scouting is about.

"It will depend maybe on the age of the player, if you are looking for technical and physical skill, and then more tactical skill when we talk about first team players.

"When you watch a game you have to process a lot of information.  

“A lot of people say you are just watching games but it is not the same as sitting there watching the Champions League with your friends and having a beer. You have to be focused. You might have to watch two or three games back to back.

"That is why we use technology, because you will miss things if you rely only on the human brain.”