Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 3-0 friendly win over SC Verl
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict after the Canaries’ 3-0 opening German tour victory.
1. Double Dowell delight
City have certainly been busy during a hectic swirl of transfer activity since relegation from the Premier League.
Jordan Hugill’s confirmed arrival on Monday made it 10 new faces for the upcoming assault on the Championship. But perhaps the most tantalising piece of business was the arrival of a young attacking midfielder with a World Cup win on his CV from his time with England’s age group squads, and a proper grounding coming through Everton’s famed academy system.
Kieran Dowell was unable to make the first team breakthrough at Goodison Park but there is no doubting the pedigree or the class. It was encouraging to see an early glimpse of his undoubted potential in a Norwich shirt.
Yes, it is pre-season, and the pursuit of fitness is paramount against rather modest if committed lower level German opposition. But the manner of his emphatic left-footed finish and then a majestic crossfield pass right onto the toe of Adam Idah to cushion a smart volleyed second goal whetted the appetite. Dowell himself scored a similar, if even more jaw-dropping finish for Wigan at Hull last season.
This is a young player with all his career in front of him. If he has now found the perfect home and, in Daniel Farke, a coach willing to back raw talent to the hilt, then Norwich could reap the rewards.
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This was a tantalising glimpse.
Perhaps Hugill’s capture is a not so subtle hint at a more robust approach from Farke this coming season.
There would appear a marked break from what has gone before in wider areas.
Those raiding full backs, and the intrinsic role Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons played in fashioning a style that swept City to the Championship title - pressing high and attacking with bravery and speed - now appears to have been tempered by deploying wingers with searing pace and direct thrust.
Przemyslaw Placheta’s signing, allied to a fit and firing Onel Hernandez, offers a new attacking dimension. City can set up when required to hit teams on the counter, going front to back in the blink of an eye.
That makes them far less predictable and far harder to nullify for opponents who feel the key to thwarting Norwich is to suffocate the space and erect barriers to blunt their passing motions. In the first half Hernandez ranged forward before checking back infield to tee up Emi Buendia for a chance spurned by the Argentine.
There was an even better opening for Teemu Pukki, served up by Placheta moving through the gears, before a pinpoint cross.
Get both in full flight in tandem and Norwich will be worth watching.
3. Striker light
It was fascinating to see how Pukki and Idah responded in very different fashion to confirmation of Hugill’s signing from West Ham.
Idah celebrated a first call up to the Republic of Ireland squad for upcoming Nations League qualifiers with the type of finish that underlined why his club boss has spoken about a ‘natural gift’ for goalscoring.
A first Premier League goal may have proved elusive during that ‘Project Restart’ period but there was enough punch to his work in a series of cameos to suggest he will meet the challenge of another rival head on.
But City’s main man the last time they were in the Championship fluffed his lines in the second half. The first touch to control Placheta’s chip was heavy, and the second lacked any conviction as his close range effort was smothered by the SC Verl keeper.
Pukki finished last season like a player lacking in belief and bereft of confidence. Remember that chance against Manchester City.
He needs a goal or two very early on to set him on his way again. His undisputed crown is now under serious threat.
4. Battering ram
Not for City’s new boy standard platitudes about jumping at the chance to join the Canaries, once his switch from West Ham was officially confirmed. Or the opportunity to work with Farke, or how impressed he was with the facilities at Colney.
No, the 28-year-old striker labelled himself an ‘old fashioned’ striker who likes to ‘batter defenders’.
To describe his own style in such unvarnished language is a nod to the type of character City have recruited.
His goalscoring record in the Championship deserves respect. But he clearly has the physical attributes that suggest he will not be intimidated, nor will he take a backward step.
That is what City need to harness collectively. They have talent aplenty, and finesse and guile, but they also need a nasty streak, a combative edge. Hugill is yet to set foot on a pitch for Norwich. But he has already made his presence felt.
5. Jostling for space
Sam McCallum and Bali Mumba both got another chance to stake a claim, with Lewis sitting this first tour friendly out and Aarons back in England for personal reasons.
Farke had the relative luxury of naming two entirely different starting line ups.
That with the likes of Hugill and Ben Godfrey sat watching in the stand alongside the injured Sam Byram, and Grant Hanley and Melvin Sitti not even making the trip.
With such an abbreviated run in to the new season, each and every chance has to be taken for the new intake.
Who would have foreseen Aarons emerging at this stage of the title-winning season as a first choice right back? Farke reiterated after this friendly win he is not banking on all those younger signings pushing their way into his immediate plans.
He will have his own private thoughts on who he wants to carry the club’s colours into battle at Huddersfield on the opening weekend of the league season, but you can visibly sense the cut throat level of competition, with the current personnel on the books, should mean City’s head coach may have a few sleepless nights ahead over the coming weeks. Which is no bad thing.