David Freezer: Zimbo and Hanley have shown potential during their few games together for City

Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley, right, following a 2-2 draw at Wolves in February 2018 Pictur

Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley, right, following a 2-2 draw at Wolves in February 2018 Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I’d love to transport to a parallel universe and see how this Premier League season would have unfolded for Norwich City without their never-ending defensive injury problems.

Instead it's this reality which we must analyse, with Ben Godfrey the latest Canaries player struck down by the curse and attentions turning to a potential partnership of Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley - a duo we've rarely seen deployed as a pair by Daniel Farke.

It's a blow for Godfrey, who has performed admirably with a great deal of pressure on his young shoulders for much of this season, playing through the pain of a hernia and recovering in double quick time during the October international break to ensure he didn't miss top-flight action.

His development has continued in the harsh environment of a top-flight survival scrap, a very different challenge to the promotion during which he first emerged as a genuine centre-back option alongside Zimmermann halfway through last season.

The return to fitness of the big friendly German recently clearly had a positive effect on the England U21 international, with the quality of City's passing out of defence improving markedly with them back in tandem.

You may also want to watch:

Take a look back at the early chance turned just wide by Teemu Pukki during last week's draw at Leicester. The move was triggered by a fine cross-field pass from Godfrey, spraying an inch-perfect switch to Max Aarons, who combined with Kenny McLean before whipping in a fine cross.

That passing ability has been more conspicuous recently but while Godfrey has a breather and rests that knee issue over Christmas there is plenty of homework for the developing defender to get stuck into.

His centre-back senses still need fine tuning, learning to smell the danger and read attacks as they unfold. Godfrey has shown his huge potential and at times has shown those instincts, so much so that any of the bigger clubs not aware of his potential would be failing in their scouting.

Most Read

Yet he is not the finished product, there have been too many goals this season when he has been just short of the positioning required to thwart the danger. That is totally understandable for a young man still basically just a year into his education as a central defender however - and the belief of most City fans that he has more ability to unlock is certainly exciting for the future.

Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley alongside Jordan Rhodes, left, and Jake Humphrey, right during

Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley alongside Jordan Rhodes, left, and Jake Humphrey, right during last season's title celebrations Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Now there's another chance for Hanley to recover his position as an influential player though, when we will find out if the club captain has managed to overcome the injury issues which seemed to hinder his movement.

When I went down to Colney a few weeks ago to talk about his recovery and hopes of fulfilling his captaincy role on the pitch again, the Scot was looking lean and sounded hungry for action, talking of his love for the Canaries and how frustrating the last 18 months have been.

If he can recover the form and fitness which made him runner-up during the Player of the Season voting in 2018, then there's no reason why Hanley can't step in and form a solid defensive partnership with Zimmermann, although it seems unlikely the 28-year-old will start spraying spectacular long balls around.

Strangely, that is a partnership that we've seen on very few occasions - completing 90 minutes together in just 11 matches during the past two and a half seasons.

Encouragingly however, only one of those 11 was a defeat, six featured a clean sheet and one was holding Chelsea to a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup, although most were as part of a run of games when they formed a back three with Timm Klose during 2017-18.

Hanley and Zimmermann could be reunited against a dangerous opposition in Wolves today, playing alongside one another in the Premier League for the first time.

Both are going to need to dig deep and use their leadership skills because, as much as it is a challenge, it's also a huge opportunity for them to form a steady partnership. If the duo who lifted the Championship trophy together last season can achieve that than who knows, City might even be well placed to finally start rebuilding their confidence when defending set-pieces?


Thanks very much for reading my columns throughout this year, one that I'll never forget for various reasons.

From covering almost every minute of Canaries action, to the incredible title celebrations and the tough reintroduction to Premier League life, it's been quite the 12 months.

With the staff changes on our sports desk and my change of role to chief Norwich City reporter in the summer, it's been a hectic but hugely rewarding year to get stuck into and I've thoroughly enjoyed the vast majority of all that's happened.

So whether it's reading these columns, watching my video verdicts on YouTube, listening to the Pink Un podcast, following our adventures around the country on our app or keeping up-to-date with all that's going on at Carrow Road via our newspapers and websites, thank you for continuing to come back and support our work.

It's a tough time for local media companies. With the limited resources available and constantly evolving opportunities and challenges provided by the internet, journalism has changed a huge amount even from when I started out as a trainee reporter over 11 years ago.

So, thank you for continuing to support us and for the regular kind comments we receive from City supporters at matches. It's very much appreciated and I hope you have a great Christmas.

- What did you think of this column? Get in touch with me on Twitter @davefreezer or on Facebook @DavidFreezer1

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus