Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from City’s German tour success
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City’s squad returned to England on the back of an encouraging pre-season tour of Germany that ended with a 2-1 win over Schalke 04. Paddy Davitt picks out some notable aspects to the victory over the Bundesliga side.
1. Teak-tough Ben
They breed them strong in Yorkshire. Ben Godfrey left Norwich City's opening pre-season tour friendly in Germany on crutches wearing a protective boot on his left ankle. Daniel Farke's face said it all immediately after that Arminia Bielefeld friendly.
With fitness doubts around Christoph Zimmermann and Timm Klose the implications were obvious to all.
Barely seven days later Godfrey was tearing into tackles and twisting and turning out of trouble in a full 90 minute shift against Schalke 04 that almost brought a stoppage time goal, with a header clawed out by Markus Schubert.
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Farke wore the look of a relieved man after Godfrey allayed concerns from City's own medical department he was fit to start in Lotte. That is the type of character Norwich will need when collective backs are against the wall in the Premier League.
The powerfully built athlete could be rapidly emerging as Farke's first choice when he has a full roster of centre backs to chose from.
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2. Stick or twist
One of the noticeable features of City's three-game tour was the experimentation by Farke in both personnel and more pertinently formations.
Norwich slipped between two deeper lying midfielders in the opening stages against Schalke 04 to a three-pronged attacking force before finishing with a defensive three and two wing backs in Max Aarons and Sam Byram.
There was also a willingness to accept that out of possession they could still carry a major threat on the counter with the pace of Teemu Pukki and the cunning of Marco Stiepermann and Patrick Roberts in possession.
Such flexibility surely broadens the capability of Farke's Canaries to respond to different opponents and difficult spells even within top flight games.
It shows a confidence in his players and a degree of innovation that underlines this Norwich City squad will have no inferiority complex.
3. Half-power Pukki
The Finnish goal machine scored one and provided one assist against one of his former clubs on Friday.
The warmth of his reception from the Schalke 04 fans, situated in the main stand when he was substituted in the second half, underlined what a popular figure he is in the way he carries himself on the pitch, quite apart from his undoubted pedigree.
This was Norwich's player-of-the-season operating at reduced capacity but he could quite easily have notched a hat-trick to go with his first goal of the summer in the previous 4-1 friendly win over SC Bonner. Pukki's ability to make the step up and score goals in the Premier League is going to be one of the factors that decides the Canaries' survival chances.
There is nothing in his body language or his demeanour in the first three public pre-season outings so far to suggest the hunger or the ambition have dimmed. He looks like a man relishing the chance to prove he can cut it in the Premier League.
4. Cool hand Todd
Fresh from resolving his immediate future and his Norwich City contract status, Todd Cantwell can now set about the target of featuring for his boyhood club in the Premier League.
That willingness to don the number 14 shirt, synonymous with the magical Wes Hoolahan's time at Carrow Road, is perhaps a telling sign of Cantwell's mindset. His game is founded on the same high tariff creativity as the mercurial Irishman.
When the flicks and the flourishes come off you can savour the quality but there can also be frustration when it fails. Yet it takes a special kind of bravery as a young homegrown attacking-minded player to embrace the responsibility of making things happen at the sharp end of the park.
There were glimpses against both SC Bonner and Schalke 04 that Cantwell is finding his feet. Farke certainly believes in the boy from Dereham. He will get more chances to impress between now and Liverpool. Then it is upto him.
5. No let up
Back to England and back to a familiar foe when Brentford provide the next opposition in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Colney later this week.
Another Football League test then awaits with upwardly mobile Luton Town before a Carrow Road homecoming for the champions and a dash of continental verve in Champions League qualifiers Atalanta and French outfit Toulouse.
That looks a varied programme for Farke to fine tune and for his squad to get miles on the clock before the seasonal opener at Anfield.
The City chief declared the trip to Germany a success with the odd caveat. One of those was the need for the players yet to feature due to injury to quickly catch up, or risk a soft start to the new campaign.
The likes of Mario Vrancic, Alex Tettey and Timm Klose, in particular, will get chances to lay down a marker for Liverpool. The more cut throat competition the better if you are Norwich's head coach.