City report card: Renaissance man Rupp
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited
Few will expect Lukas Rupp to play a leading role in Norwich City’s Premier League tilt. Yet the German might just fancy those odds.
Rupp’s brief series of cameos the last time City tried their luck in the top flight did little to convince supporters his versatility was an asset.
But re-deployed in a central midfield berth for the first part of the club’s Championship fightback, it appeared to trigger a transformative impact on and off the park.
Those driving runs, that ability to read the game and an athleticism perhaps not readily apparent when you study his frame and physique convinced many doubters.
His head coach, Daniel Farke, was never one of them. After a sustained run in the side, and some eye-catching individual offerings, notably a hard-fought 1-0 home league win over Birmingham in October, this was Farke’s case for the defence.
“I am too long in this business to get carried away. I know I can judge a player,” he said. “I am delighted for Lukas that he has proved some of his doubters wrong but if you don’t work on a daily basis with the lads it is not easy to judge.
"I know he wasn’t shining last season every game, but you can’t be a flag in the wind and when there is criticism you try and bend to fulfil what others want.
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“You have to stick to what you believe in. I am just happy that people can realise how good he can be but the challenge now is to go further on.
“Then he can be a big influence for us. I am not over the moon after just a few good performances.
“Lukas had something like 150 games on a top level in Germany. He played for proper clubs like Monchengladbach, who were in the Champions League, Stuttgart and Hoffenheim. I knew what I was getting with this player.”
Inevitably the manner City moved through the gears with that defining nine game winning streak, the potency of players like Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia and the defensive resolve woven around Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley will remain the easily accessible elements of a second title win under Farke.
But in that period when they were trying to shed the negativity associated with relegation, and inject some of that later momentum, it was players like the consistent, under-stated Rupp who proved one of the early cornerstones.
That career pedigree in his homeland Farke referenced, allied to the experience he has now amassed of the English game since his arrival in January 2020, make him an intriguing element of any future midfield mix.
With Olly Skipp returning to sender, and a huge question mark at this stage when he returns, Rupp may sense an opportunity to stake a claim.
Alex Tettey’s departure, Kenny McLean’s summer of rehab work and a recruitment drive underway to find at least two new central midfield additions all enhance Rupp’s value.
What he has to prove in the short term is those hamstring issues, which blighted the second part of last season, and forced him out of the run in, are firmly behind him.
The noises from the 30-year-old back in Germany recently sound promising. Remove those fitness concerns and the key part of this equation is whether Farke trusts him to deliver at the highest level.
Certainly he offers a physicality the head coach, and Stuart Webber, deemed is not part of Tom Trybull or Moritz Leitner’s toolkit. Rupp also has a passing range not to be underestimated.
You can put a line through his first brief exposure to the Premier League, given the manner he was rotated across Farke’s midfield. Deputising for Buendia on occasion was something of a poisoned chalice.
But towards the end of that debut tour in England there was also an FA Cup tussle with Manchester United, that ultimately ended in disappointment for his side, but perhaps offered the first glimpse of Rupp’s real potential.
That day against a highly-rated Reds’ frontline we saw a player who had the ability to read the game and sense the danger in front of his back four.
Much is likely to depend on the relative success of Webber and his recruitment team in the weeks ahead. None more so than how persuasive they can be to entice Skipp away from Tottenham.
But if it is not to be a leading role for Rupp in the Premier League there now appears to be a player at Farke’s disposal who possesses the nous and quality to make a positive impression in City’s return to the big time.