'Really energetic' - Normann can be City’s Skipp replacement
- Credit: Tass/PA Images
When it comes to Oliver Skipp alternatives, Norwich City have done very well to secure the signing of Mathias Normann, according to a Norwegian football expert.
Kasper Wikestad is a commentator for Norwegian broadcaster TV2, including covering Premier League games – and has also followed Norwich as his English team since the 1980s.
Following the Canaries’ sealing the season-long loan of the Norway midfielder from Russian side Rostov, with the option for a permanent deal if successful, we asked Wikestad for his views.
“If you want to compare him with a player it’s easy to see why Stuart Webber went for Mathias Normann when he didn’t get Ollie Skipp, because they are not that far away in strengths and weaknesses,” he said.
“I’d say more similar to Skipp than Alex Tettey and he can run for 90 minutes. He is a really energetic player and a midfielder in the Norwegian national team, that has been quite crowded with good players, like Martin Odegaard and Sander Berge.
“But I know Stale Solbakken, the Norwegian national coach, he really likes Mathias Normann and sees a bright future with him in the national team.”
Wikestad is well placed to make the comparison with Skipp as well, having commentated on Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Watford on Sunday.
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The England Under-21 international played the full game, starting his third successive Premier League match as Spurs went into the international break sitting top of the table.
Skipp finished third in the Player of the Season voting at City last season and was a player that the Canaries would have loved to have kept it possible but Normann had been a target as soon as promotion was sealed anyway.
“Ollie Skipp was good. You can see he needs a couple of games to adapt to the league, like he had in Norwich,” Wikestad added.
“I don’t think he was great in the first games with Norwich last season either and you can see he passes on and plays with a little more freedom as each game passes in the Premier League with Tottenham.
“This was maybe his best game in a Spurs shirt after last season, so you can see he’s developing a lot in Tottenham like he did in Norwich.”
The defensive midfielder is set to become the fourth player from Norway to represent the Canaries, following Aage Hareide in the 1980s, Erik Fuglestad in the 1990s and, of course, the legend that is Alex Tettey.
The 25-year-old has spent the last two-and-a-half years playing regularly in the Russian Premier League for Rostov, in western Russia, close to the borders with Ukraine and Georgia.
Normann grew up in a town north of the Arctic Circle and, having also had six months in England while on the books at Brighton as a youngster, he’ll have no problems adapting once the wintry weather arrives.
“He’s been great in Russia, in good standing and has played himself into the national team,” explained Wikestad.
“Now and then you get these highlights on social media of great goals or passes from Normann because he is a really good footballer, he is ambitious and he works hard.
“He is from a small, tiny place (Svolvaer) out in the ocean in northern Norway – so he can tackle a cold night in Stoke or a snowy day in Burnley!”
Canaries fans have been impressed by the new signing’s ripped physique, which he is not afraid of showing off to an Instagram following of over one million.
Adding some muscle and defensive focus to Daniel Farke’s midfield options was seen as a pivotal piece of business before the transfer window closed and sporting director Stuart Webber delivered the goods on Sunday.
“He had an okay reputation back home but he went out quite early, so his reputation has really developed and grown after he went aboard,” continued Wikestad, who works for Norwegian broadcaster TV2.
“He was at Brighton, I don’t think he got any minutes, but he has a good standing in Rostov in the Russian league.
“He has quite a big following on Instagram, over one million! I think he had quite a popular girlfriend with quite a few social media followers.”
Inevitably, comparisons are going to be drawn with Oliver Skipp, after the midfielder made such a big impact during his loan from Tottenham.
It appears Normann is not quite a like-for-like replacement for the England Under-21 international, with a reputation for long passing and being eager to shoot from distance, but he does have a similar engine.
“He’s similar in he has the same energy, he covers a lot of ground,” continued the Canaries-supporting commentator.
“He’s probably more developed with the ball than Skipp was when he came to Norwich, who developed that skill in a long season with Norwich.
“So he’s not that typical anchor man but he can win the ball, he is a good tackler, but most important is the energy in his playing style.
“He can cover a lot of ground and I think he is just the player that Norwich need in midfield – if he can adapt to the Premier League. That is always going to be the big question mark when you haven’t seen players in that league before.”
Normann is currently away with his national colleagues, hoping to add to his seven caps.
“He’s been a bit-part player in the Norwegian set-up and that’s because we have really good players in that position,” Wikestad concluded.
“But he is working himself in there and if I’m interpreting things correctly, he has a great future in the national team.
“The problem was he didn’t have much experience of the under-21s and things like that so he is quite new on the international stage for Norway.
“That’s mainly because he’s been so good and developed himself in the Russian league. They say in Rostov that he’s got a great style.”
- You can watch the conversation in full in the video above