Connor Southwell: Give Hugill time to prove his worth to the City cause
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When Jordan Hugill arrived at Carrow Road, plenty were keen to quickly draw comparisons with a former City frontman.
Jordan Rhodes’ contribution in the Canaries title-winning season two years ago propelled him to cult hero status and left him in receipt of a chant to accompany his popularity on the terraces.
When Hugill rocked up in Norfolk, people were keen to draw similarities between the type of striker he was and the role he plays to that of Rhodes.
Make no mistake, they are completely different operators who both possess alternative qualities. Both are very good options.
In the opening 10 games, Hugill has one goal and is yet to really leave his mark on the pitch, leading some supporters to question whether a robust, physical striker can be implemented into Daniel Farke’s system.
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Conversations on social media have already begun, doubts have been expressed and some supporters are concerned about whether he’ll come good.
Strikers always seem to suffer harsher treatment, their game judged solely on goals and their wider impact can be neglected if they don’t net consistently.
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Considering the struggles City had with sharing the goals around last season, that fact that their 12 goals have arrived from eight different scorers is a positive. Last season alone they only managed 10 different names.
The perception is that Hugill has arrived to ease the burden from Teemu Pukki’s shoulders, that his arrival is the sign of a clear ‘Plan B’ concocted by Farke and his coaching staff.
In reality, he is a different option. It’s about having horses for courses. Away to Rotherham, having a self-professed battering ram is arguably a better option than someone positionally and technically intelligent in Pukki.
It’s fair to say that City have struggled to unlock his qualities in open play. Hugill wants to play between the posts and that’s reliant on receiving crosses, something that hasn’t been as productive a supply line since Xavi Quintilla was ruled out through injury.
There’s plenty of context to unwrap surrounding Hugill that serves as additional evidence that the striker needs more time to adapt to life in Norfolk.
In his opening nine appearances for the club, Hugill has played more than 20 minutes on only three occasions, completing one complete 90 minutes since he signed for the club in the summer.
Hugill arrived in the middle of the Canaries brief pre-season tour of Germany and had a limited time to get to grips with the demands Farke puts on individuals in his system.
The 28-year-old is struggling to an extent, the ball isn’t sticking when he attempts to hold it up but, equally, City aren’t playing fully to his strengths.
Some game states don’t suit Hugill’s qualities, in the same way that they may not extract Pukki’s best side either. The key word for the Canaries this season is variation and Hugill offers that.
Hugill played in a progressive Mark Warburton side in the Championship last season, scoring 15 goals in the process. That will have played a part in why City’s hierarchy decided to recruit him.
There are also the intangible elements to his game, his leadership in the dressing room, his Championship experience and his jovial personality. All of them help galvanise a dressing room and construct togetherness, Stuart Webber has spoken in the past about cultural enablers and Hugill will fall into that role.
But let’s be clear. He has struggled in open play, his touch has let him down in moments but his movement created the space for Pukki to exploit against Wycombe, his composure saw City snatch three points against Rotherham United.
He will be judged on goals, but he shouldn’t be defined by them. Hugill’s presence and contribution extends beyond the amount of times he puts the ball in the net.
As it stands, Adam Idah seems to be the preferred substitute prior to Hugill, but that doesn’t mean it can’t evolve and adapt.
Equally, if he isn’t going to provide the volume of goals that Pukki does, then he does need to ensure other elements of his game provide a different option for Farke to exploit.
Hugill will win points for Norwich City this season, he just needs time to prove his worth.