Farke’s selection issues ahead of City’s restart
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Ahead of the resumption of Premier League battle, David Freezer takes a look at the options available to Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke as the Canaries attempt to pull off their “little miracle”.
Cross your fingers, City fans, because Daniel Farke may actually have close to a fully fit squad for Friday’s Carrow Road clash with Southampton.
We know that one unnamed player will not be involved against the Saints after a positive coronavirus test but beyond that concerning development, football’s three-month break has allowed injuries to clear up.
Clearly with full intensity training and games returning, the chance of fresh problems is high, but at least ahead of the restart things are looking relatively healthy.
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A straight forward area for Farke following the end of Ralf Fahrmann’s loan in January, with Tim Krul among the favourites for player of the season.
The experienced Michael McGovern provides the cover, followed by U23 keeper Archie Mair, who is yet to make a senior appearance.
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Could it be that City actually have four centre-backs to pick from? Timm Klose was back in training in March after a long-term knee injury and has trained fully, while Christoph Zimmermann is chasing full fitness after a hamstring problem which would have seen him miss much of the originally scheduled campaign.
Grant Hanley was in fine fettle before the break so it would appear to be a choice of who partners the captain, unless there is a change in formation to accommodate three centre-backs. So will the experience of Klose edge the Swiss international ahead of England U21 ace Ben Godfrey?
Full-back is more straight forward, with Sam Byram chasing fitness as well after a hamstring injury so that he can compete with the highly rated Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis.
City’s last seven league matches have featured Alex Tettey and Kenny McLean as a solid central midfield pairing, ever since a forgettable day for Mario Vrancic during a 4-0 loss at Manchester United in January.
So it’s down to Vrancic, Tom Trybull and Moritz Leitner to force their way back into Farke’s plans, with Leitner only playing in the FA Cup win at Preston since October and Trybull yet to feature in the league in 2020.
There’s plenty of competition for places in attacking midfield areas as well, with Onel Hernandez back from a knee injury to compete with Todd Cantwell on the left and Lukas Rupp seemingly seen as competition for Emi Buendia on the right.
Hertha Berlin loanee Ondrej Duda is set tot remain for the rest of the season as well and has Marco Stiepermann as competition for the central playmaker role.
The season’s suspension came just at the wrong time for Josip Drmic, after returning from six weeks out with a hamstring injury in January. A tap-in at Burnley in the FA Cup and some bright cameos saw him go close to scoring a fine late goal during the 1-0 league win over Leicester.
The equaliser and a full 120 minutes at Spurs in the FA Cup fifth round then saw Daniel Farke turn to the Swiss striker at half-time as City were losing 1-0 at Sheffield United.
He came on and played up front with top scorer Teemu Pukki and the Canaries looked much more threatening but Drmic was one of the players denied as part of Dean Henderson’s superb triple save as the hosts held out for a 1-0 win.
The break may well have come at a good time for Pukki though, who was knocked off course by a toe injury in December, restricting him to just two successful penalties in his last 11 games.
Will that competition bring the best from them or could we see more of Pukki and Drmic as a partnership?
A new area for consideration is on the bench, where Premier League teams are allowed to name nine substitutes until the end of the campaign.
That’s to accommodate five replacements being allowed during a game, during three occasions, in appreciation of the lack of a full pre-season ahead of the restart.
This looks to be good news for youngsters such as Adam Idah and Josh Martin, however, a host of the club’s best academy talent will not be available.
Centre-back Akin Famewo, left-back Sam McCallum and midfielder Louis Thompson, for example, were on loan and playing for St Mirren, Coventry and MK Dons respectively when football was brought to a sudden halt. Players in their situation cannot feature for Norwich until the 2019-20 season is concluded.
It’s a similar scenario for incoming talent, which means that Luxembourg forward Danel Sinani may become a Norwich player as of July 1 but he was registered with F91 Dudelange during the second half of the season, so he can only come into contention for 2020-21.