City report card: Can Stiepi rediscover his enigmatic wonder?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Marco Stiepermann will need to rediscover what made him stand out during Norwich City’s Championship success - his enigmatic style. Connor Southwell takes a look at the German in the latest part of our report card series.
Marco Stiepermann was Norwich City’s man of mystique during their Championship title-winning campaign - the Canaries will be hoping to rediscover the German’s enigmatic side next season.
Stiepermann’s career at Carrow Road has seen him deployed as a makeshift left-back and also as a tactical-enabling attacking-midfielder. The neutral may be left to ponder where else the 29-year-old may be able to display his influence on the pitch.
Despite some flashes of excellence, the attacking midfielder saw himself struggle to nail down a starting berth under Daniel Farke in the top flight.
On the opening day at Anfield, Stiepermann was guilty of failing to hit the target as the Canaries constructed attack after attack.
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Little did anyone know at the time, but that would become a trend throughout the season - City’s lack of quality.
Those who watched Stiepermann perform in the Championship struggled to define him. He is a lanky, rough around the edges type of footballer, but he proved so efficient in Farke’s second division jigsaw last time out.
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His physicality occupied defenders offensively and allowed Teemu Pukki to push onto the shoulder to get in behind.
Yet, he wasn’t the technical creator that would regularly supply assists for goals.
That wonder made him pulsating to consume in the Championship - he stood out as a number 10, but in the Premier League, the regular player seemed to tower above him.
The physical demands coupled with the increased focus on technical proficiency rendered Stiepermann ineffective at times in the top flight.
The German found himself transitioning between being deployed to aid the offensive fluidity of the side to becoming a player important to preventing defensive midfielders from getting onto the ball.
Attacking midfield was a position that the Canaries suffered an identity crisis with all season.
Farke’s love for inverted wide players means that deploying another technically-gifted player within that set-up would see City suffer a lack of variation in attacking phrases.
Ondrej Duda was considered the upgrade, somebody who would be capable of linking the play and possessing the frame to physically impact matches.
Stiepermann’s success in the Championship came from his willingness to drop deeper and grant space inside to Buendia and Onel Hernandez.
The addition of Przemyslaw Placheta could see the Canaries go down a different tactical route, especially considering their struggles last season.
Stiepermann is a player who City remained loyal to after promotion but, as Tom Trybull and Moritz Leitner may find out, those protagonists pivotal to that achievement may have reached the end of the road.
Last month, Farke outlined his plans to produce a promotion-challenging team next season and said he would have to take ruthless decisions to unearth a squad capable of providing success.
“We had some who were outstanding in the Championship but perhaps found it difficult in the Premier League so for each player we have to decide can they be outstanding again back in the Championship or do we freshen it up?” he told the club’s official channels.
So where does that leave Stiepermann this summer?
He falls into the cohort who struggled to adapt to the intensity of the top flight but was a hero in the Championship.
But his effectiveness in the division previously offers Farke a different offensive option who could shift the dynamic of their game plan, especially if they manage to retain the services of Todd Cantwell and Buendia.
As a link player, Stiepermann is intrinsic to City’s possession-based approach, but whether he would be content with occupying the shadows and being drip-fed football is unclear.
Plus, if City were to return to the top flight, then the man himself would know that he would fall further down the pecking order.
Establishing himself as a key cog and proving the harsh lessons delivered by the Premier League have been digested will be pivotal to resurrecting his Canaries career.
His attacking output will be essential, Stiepermann needs to force his way back into the limelight and show his worth.
If the German can rediscover his enigmatic style and implement it with success in the Championship, then City know they have a player in their ranks capable of posing a threat to opposition defences.
But with City looking to head in a different direction with more streetwise operators, where does that leave Stiepermann?