David Hannant: Diamond in the rough Christoph Zimmermann is a prime microcosm for Norwich City’s season so far
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On Saturday I spent a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes or so in London watching the triumphant story of a diamond in the rough.
I wasn’t at Griffin Park - I was at the St Edward’s Theatre watching Aladdin - however, were I at the home of the Bees my viewing wouldn’t have been all that different under the surface.
In this particular production, the role of Al could be played by a handful of individuals - as I am starting to feel this is exactly what City’s transfer policy has become - staring Jafar-like into crystal balls to reveal diamonds in the rough.
However, the one I feel so far that most represents the titular character of this particular tale is a man who also serves as a microcosm for City’s entire season so far - Christoph Zimmermann.
The towering defender arrived from the fourth tier of German football, having by his own admission started to reconsider his career in the game.
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He arrived with little fanfare and earmarked as - so Daniel Farke claimed - third or fourth choice, maybe if he progresses.
Now, he finds himself a true fan favourite, a regular starter who has grown and grown in his role.
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He has also become something of a poster boy for the Stuart Webber recruitment approach - 12 months ago it is unlikely many Norwich City fans without computer game CV’s as long as Nicolas Anelka’s list of former clubs would have known who the 25-year-old was. Now he’s a household name in these parts.
And it is Zimmermann’s back story that makes him such a great poster boy for this - just from his demeanour off the pitch you can see how grateful he is to be a Norwich City player. The way he engages with young fans is a prime example of this.
On the pitch, he shows he is willing to put his body on the line for the cause, which is exactly what you look for in a centre back.
All this is what makes City’s number six the perfect microcosm for the Daniel Farke era.
He arrived as an unknown quantity and in all fairness took a little while to get up to speed - he suffered occasional lapses and made the odd mistake. However, he has learned from them.
Each week, he seems to look more assured and with each game English football looks more and more suited to him.
This is how I have seen the season thus far, and how I see it continuing to go.
Yes, there have been mistakes made. Yes, there have been times of frustration and yes, it hasn’t always going to plan.
However, recent weeks have seen improvement - City currently sit third in the form table with four wins from the last six.
Zimmermann has been a big part of this - he, Timm Klose and Grant Hanley look to have become thick as thieves at the back - a gutsy trio each with their own leadership qualities.
Only Derby County have conceded fewer goals in the last six league games than City; the ship is starting to look steadier.
It seems inevitable Timm Klose won’t be around forever, but with a ready made replacement in Sean Raggett waiting in the wings, the next trio could be just as formidable.
Much like Christoph Zimmermann, City have grown under Daniel Farke, from a shaky start to shows of promise. Not the finished article of course, but you can see what can be achieved.
Another player who sums up the season so far for me is Mario Vrancic - perhaps even more so.
Unlike Zimmermann, Vrancic really took his fair share of stick to begin with, which I never feel is deserved unless there is no work.
We have see players in the past show up merely for a pay cheque, with no hunger and no desire. Mario has never been like this.
He did, however, take a little while to adjust to the hustle and bustle of Championship football, but is starting to look the part.
Again, he’s not the finished article, but I’m having the feeling he will only get better - not worse - which is how I feel about Norwich City in general under Farke.
I’m forever the optimist and have been accused of living in Cloud Cuckoo Land as a result, but I feel City could well turn out to be one of the success stories of the second half of the season.
The most recent blotch on City’s report card - the defeat at home to Sheffield United - may have put the top six that little bit too far out of reach, but a strong end the season should put us in good stead for next season’s promotion push.
And the diamond in the rough approach to transfer business is all good with me.
I’m yet to see any of the ‘Drei January’ trio in action, but the fact that three players arrived in the three positions that were vacated, shows Stuart Webber knows how to identify needs and act, so the summer will certainly be intriguing to say the least.
Captain Grant H II?
What is it with players called Grant H and Norwich City?
Obviously, the original Grant H will go down in City folklore for years to come - few will ever be as popular as Mr Holt.
City’s current Grant H, is going the right way about earning similar adulation.
The centre back’s play screams out ‘good old fashioned defender’ - brave, hard hitting and a leader.
Hanley is starting to remind me of somebody like Malky Mackay, a rock who would rather a shot cannon off his unmentionables than end up in the back of the net.
I feel his involvement has also been critical in the evolution of Christoph Zimmermann - Hanley knows this league like the back of his hand and can pass this knowledge on to his colleague.
I’ve seen quite a few people on social media field the idea of giving him the captain’s armband for the foreseeable future - which is something I can get well behind.
He’s a leader on the pitch and an organiser, who I can’t think of anybody more suited to the role at the moment.
A managerial window?
The January transfer window is bonkers - it’s a cliché to say so, but a cliché for a reason.
Since coming in, it has changed so much about transfer habits across the game. Players go at inflated prices, panic buys happen, but it is the same for every club.
However, it has got me thinking - why is there one rule for playing staff and another for managers?
Throughout the season we see clubs pulling the trigger on their managers the minute they string together more than two defeats.
Wouldn’t it be interesting for a managerial window to also be brought in?
Once the season begins, the window slams shut and no manager can be relieved of their duties until the window opens again. I’d even be in favour of only allowing managerial changes during the off season.
It’s hard to imagine what this would look like, but it would at the very least put a stop on this constant merry-go-round we have at the minute. It would be an interesting experiment.