Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s unbeaten German tour
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict after the Canaries’ double header against SV Darmstadt.
1. The enforcers
It was hard not to cast a glance over Daniel Farke’s line up for the opening slice of this Darmstadt double header and see the potential for a repeat when it really matters at Huddersfield on day one of the Championship fightback.
None more so than in central midfield; an area of the squad which has had a fair degree of turbulence over the close season.
In came Jacob ‘Lungi’ Sorensen and Oliver Skipp on loan from Tottenham. Out, it would seem, head Tom Trybull and Moritz Leitner.
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With Alex Tettey forced to deputise again at centre back, to cover the shortfall with Grant Hanley and Akin Famewo back in England, it was another dress rehearsal for Skipp and Kenny McLean.
Skipp is sure to become a Carrow Road fan favourite, once supporters are eventually allowed to return, given his penchant for throwing himself fearlessly into full-blooded challenges. But the boy from Spurs can also play and he showed plenty of ambition to support his attacking players.
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In those moments when he raided McLean offered protection in behind. There was a balance and a control to City’s endeavours that was absent in the second instalment when Lukas Rupp and Sorensen were paired together.
In the Premier League, Farke appeared constrained between trying to attain creativity and combativeness in his holding duo. He might just have unearthed both on the evidence of pre-season.
2. Mission statement
Josh Martin’s wonderfully flighted goal was a thing of beauty. But just as revealing as the first glimpse of his goalscoring prowess at first team level from a set piece was his willingness to edge more senior team mates aside to take the free kick earned by Marco Stiepermann.
Mario Vrancic was not on the pitch at that point, and Farke disclosed after this double header Martin had badgered him to be introduced seconds earlier than he did in the second friendly of the day, with Vrancic about to take another set piece in an identical position.
That would have been an interesting conversation, given Vrancic’s mastery of the dead ball.
Martin’s general play was tamped with poise and quality.
There was one particularly fine slaloming run past two players in his own half and the perfect pass for Teemu Pukki who dallied seconds too long before pulling the trigger.
Martin is firmly in Farke’s thoughts. He must also be in the conversation for a leading role at Luton in the League Cup.
Impress there and who knows what lies ahead.
3. Dan’s the Man
Talking of the Hatters, and a slightly surreal first competitive game of the new campaign in the League Cup this coming weekend, City’s teenage keeper Daniel Barden is in pole position.
With Tim Krul and Michael McGovern among a vast international contingent unavailable Farke opted to blood Barden in the second Darmstadt friendly to grant him a feel of the first team environment ahead of the pending cup trip to Kenilworth Road.
There was a fine first half reaction stop to parry Fabian Holland’s thumping close range hit.
It was worth the clean sheet that would come his way in what proved a poor imitation of the opening duel between the clubs.
Farke spoke afterwards how the Welsh Under-19 international has the right mix of humbleness and arrogance to feel comfortable thrown in at the deep end. Luton will do their homework and you can be sure aim to unsettle the young keeper.
But these are the sort of opportunities any aspiring wannabe should aim to grasp.
Under Farke age is no barrier to the Norwich first team and with seemingly a log jam of young keeping talent beneath Krul and McGovern Barden can lay down a marker at the Hatters.
4. Timeless Tettey
The Norwegian would hardly take offence if he was now described as reaching veteran status. That affords him a degree of wisdom that comes from experiencing plenty of highs and lows during his lengthy City career; a spell which is now entering its final turn, unless there is an improbable contract extension beyond this season.
Tettey increasingly plays with a serenity that probably comes from knowing he wants to enjoy his final laps as a professional footballer.
The pressure is always still there but tempered with the knowledge the end is in sight.
If anything his work on the ball last season was as good and as consistent as he has produced in green and yellow.
It is less what he offers on the park moving forward and perhaps his value off it. That is why it was reassuring to hear him talk in such glowing terms about the spirit and the sense of renewal new signings have brought.
For Tettey this is not the squad who failed in the Premier League.
This is a group with all the tools to compete at the right end of the Championship.
The only problem he foresees? Farke’s challenge to keep everyone happy.
5. Acid tests ahead
The man himself said it best. You can have the finest pre-season possible and endure a horrid start when the real business gets underway.
The opposite is also true.
But there is no doubt it feels much better to approach Luton and Huddersfield on the back of an encouraging string of results and performances.
Yes, it is about fitness and assimilating new players into the way Farke wants to set about the task, but there has been a cutting edge, a cohesion and bar a sloppy five minutes at the end of the first Darmstadt friendly, a welcome resolve.
Skipp revealed after the Dresden friendly how Farke had devoted a considerable period on the training pitches to honing City’s collective approach without the ball; when to press, how to press and who to press.
There must be re-invention for his fourth season at the helm. Retain the elements that make City so enticing to watch at their best but address the glaring deficiencies that were routinely highlighted in the more exacting terrain of the Premier League.
Should Norwich build on the fresh foundations put in place over recent days then early momentum can be attained.
But there is still an inevitable degree of uncertainty how this pans out, and those questions from a desperately poor top flight finale will linger until there is irrefutable evidence City is on the rise again.