Freezer’s Five: Key talking points from Norwich City’s friendly success at Cambridge United
- Credit: Liam McAvoy/Focus Images Limited
Following Norwich City’s pre-season friendly victory at Cambridge United, Canaries correspondent David Freezer takes a look at some of the key points to emerge.
Had this been a competitive fixture, there could well have been a great deal of fuss surrounding the injuries to Timm Klose and Alex Pritchard.
Uche Ikpeazu clattered into Klose with a late challenge shortly before half-time of the 120-minute match, with Klose immediately signalling he was in pain to the City bench and hobbling off to the dressing room.
Pritchard was caught by robust U’s defender Mark Roberts as he thumped away a clearance in his own box, leaving the Canaries playmaker writhing in pain on the floor with what appeared to be an ankle problem before being taken off on a stretcher with 12 minutes remaining.
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Those injuries leave head coach Daniel Farke anxiously awaiting medical assessments before knowing if he will be without two key players for the start of the Championship season.
The German’s annoyance was shown in his post-match interview when he described Cambridge as being ‘pretty aggressive’ and as becoming frustrated because of City’s dominance.
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Farke was extremely animated in the early stages of the first 60-minute match, as City fans got a first look at their team playing with three defenders, coinciding with the return to fitness of captain Russell Martin.
Josh Murphy and Ben Godfrey in particular were given the hairdryer treatment from their German head coach for not occupying the defensive positions he wanted.
But with Christoph Zimmermann looking assured in the middle, the formation seemed to suit Martin to the right of him and Klose to the left, with James Husband deployed as a wing-back on the left and Wildschut on the right from the start.
There were some inevitably nervy moments as the ball was played out from the back but there were encouraging early signs for a formation which looks to suit the current players Farke has to call upon.
Franke straight into the mix
It was not in the circumstances he will have been expecting, after Klose went off injured, but Marcel Franke was quickly into action for the Canaries.
The towering German’s signing was only announced on Friday but he got to play over an hour on his debut, showing his power when easing Ikpeazu off the ball emphatically soon after coming on before the end of the first 60-minute match.
The 24-year-old looked so laid back he was almost horizontal once he got into the flow of the game, looking completely calm when harried by the opposition before firing away his passes.
Described by Farke as ‘one of the best players’ in Bundesliga Two last season, it was an encouraging early performance, as City’s revamped defence starts to take shape.
Godfrey debate continues
The debate over 19-year-old Ben Godfrey’s best position continues, after a more assured performance in midfield.
The York City academy product had a night to forget in the 2-2 draw at Stevenage in midweek, when deployed at centre-back, but got his chance in central midfield at the Cambs Glass Stadium.
His physical approach won back possession in the Cambridge half in the 38th minute, playing in Josh Murphy who couldn’t take his chance, and Godfrey went on a rampaging run soon after which saw defenders bouncing off him before he was halted in the box.
He was again moved into defence for the start of the second match, playing on the left of the back three and having to make the most of his passing skills as replacement keeper Remi Matthews did his best to start play from the back,
He still didn’t look as comfortable positionally though, as the U’s pressed forward in the latter stages.
He even got a late stint at right-back as he got a valuable 120 minutes in the tank. That flexibility may well help him get game-time this season but his future increasingly looks to be in midfield.
Quiet debut for Gunn
There was no mock headbutt of the crossbar to please the Canaries fans as Angus Gunn ran towards the travelling support at the start of proceedings at the Cambs Glass Stadium. Perhaps he’s keeping his powder dry for Carrow Road?
However, the 21-year-old slipped back into a Norwich jersey as if he had never been away, as the academy product began his season-long loan with his boyhood club from Manchester City.
With his dad, Canaries legend Bryan, watching proudly from the stands it was the footwork and sharp passing skills of the England Under-21 international which caught the eye.
He looked to have an early free-kick from Luke Berry covered, that whistled just wide in the seventh minute, but wasn’t able to prevent George Maris poking the ball under him and into the net from close range – only to be saved by an offside flag.
Otherwise Gunn largely had to deal with routine saves and making sure his distribution helped his defenders start City’s passing play from the back.
Tougher tests undoubtedly await but the youngster will have been quietly pleased with his first shift, as he builds towards his first senior competitive game in club football.
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