Connor Southwell: What do Duda and Rupp signings mean for City’s midfield?
- Credit: Norwich City FC
Norwich City find themselves propped up against the bar of the last chance saloon, desperately seeking a solution to their Premier League woes.
There was an air of inevitability to the fact that City would dip their toes into the transfer market in an attempt to revive their fortunes in the top-flight.
Desperation isn't a factor of the Canaries recruitment; it's well-documented how meticulously sporting director Stuart Webber and head of recruitment Kieran Scott prepare for them.
Whilst relegation is looking increasingly likely, City can still survive. Where there are points, there is hope, but City don't have much rope to hold onto as they attempt to pull themselves to safety.
Any signings they make would have to future-proof the club and be financially viable given the ever-threatening realisation of City returning to the second-tier of English football.
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This week saw the Canaries swoop to add two midfielders to their ranks, as City boss Daniel Farke attempts to mastermind the unlikeliest of great escapes.
With Ondrej Duda and Lukas Rupp becoming the latest additions to Farke's first-team squad, it begs the question, what do these signings mean for the make-up of City's engine room?
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Duda's arrival provides an interesting insight into how City view the mechanics within their midfield. Last season, Marco Stiepermann was an enigmatic, problematic and fascinating footballer to consume.
He located space at will and formed a partnership with Teemu Pukki that allowed the Finn to drift in behind whilst he occupied defenders with his physicality.
That step to the Premier League is a seismic one, both in terms of quality and intensity.
Stiepermann's performance at Deepdale proved that, in the Championship, he is an effective operator capable of disrupting defensive structures and being a creator.
In the Premier League, Stiepermann has been deployed with the intention of thwarting an opposition's defensive midfielder rather than in an attempt to extract his offensive talents.
Against Manchester City, he prevented Rodri from dictating from deep.
Where his performances have lacked is influencing games to the extent he managed in the Championship, hence why City have acted and recruited Duda.
Kenny McLean was presented as an alternative, and impressed in City's win at Goodison Park in November.
Physically, he competed. Farke deployed him in a specific role designed to help City bypass the press they were struggling to deal with, and McLean was instrumental in that victory.
Thereafter, the Scot has displayed consistency but has lacked both the productivity and sparkle many associate with effective attacking midfielders.
By the same token, City's midfield structure and the disjointed nature of their midfield set-up has been a problem.
Admittedly, key defenders being absent through injury hasn't aided their cause, but the manner in which City's midfield has conceded space and lacked cohesion has proved terminal in their quest for safety.
In possession, they can look slick, but Old Trafford was an example of the cost of being sloppy with the ball.
The gaps between the lines is often too great and the freedom of City's inverted wingers isn't being covered in a way which prevents attacks from opponents.
There is also an argument to say City's midfield has looked increasingly leggy, hence the lapses in concentration referenced previously.
Those aforementioned reasons all explain the thought process behind the recruitment of Rupp, given his attributes, he could provide a bit of rawness to the City midfield.
Evidently, City's boss enjoys working with technically proficient operators in the central phase of the pitch but Rupp seems to be a hard-working, energetic midfielder who breaks that mould slightly.
His versatility helps with competition, but his skillset at previous clubs means he has supported attacks and helped protect defences.
Complimented by Alex Tettey's obdurate nature, Rupp would help with the structure of the City midfield, as well as posing a threat from distance.
The other facet of the move is whether City see Rupp as a player for the present or as a contingency plan should they return to the Premier League.
Given many didn't identify midfield as an area City needed to recruit in, it'll be interesting to see whether these recruits signal a change in approach from Farke.