City report card: Crunch time for Onel's Norwich journey

Onel Hernandez of Norwich looks dejected at the end of the Sky Bet Championship match at The Den, Lo

Onel Hernandez is a popular figure at Norwich City.

Onel Hernandez must be the only member of an elite club of players to commit to having the Norwich City badge tattooed onto his left arm. 

Every time the Cuban international speaks about the club, his adoration for it shines through. There is an appreciation of how it has elevated him onto a world stage in the Premier League but also a thankfulness for helping him meet his fiancee and offering a new life. 

His personal story is fascinating. From Cuba, he was taken to Germany as a youngster and fell in love. Fast forward and he would become the first player from his birth country to play in the Premier League. 

Despite his jovial nature and humorous character, there is a hard work that underpins everything Hernandez has done throughout his life. The 28-year-old has a likeability which is impossible to force or self create, that's why so many were delighted for him when he made his international debut in March. 

Whether it be developing a love for Argos or being quoted in a national paper stating his excitement at jetting away for a family holiday he had saved up for, he has worked his way into the hearts of City fans.

He was seemingly close to tears when he scored his first international goal. It was almost like a child scoring their first ever goal. As a fan, you find yourself actively rooting for his success. But as a footballer, that needs to be backed up by performances on the pitch.

That explains why he cannot be written off, despite a lack of game time this season. 

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There were mitigating factors behind his lack of involvement, namely his hip injury which ruled him out for three months, but also the positive performances of creative duo Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia. 

Hernandez does offer a different skill set to those aforementioned players. The Cuban is quick, does want to drift wide and engage full-backs in 1v1s and is willing to hit the byline. In the Premier League, where the Canaries may be forced to absorb more pressure, his attributes could prove a useful weapon from the bench. 

It's dangerous to write off the winger after everything he has endured in both his life and professional career. 

During City's title-winning campaign in 2018/19, Hernandez netted on eight occasions and registered 10 assists. A stellar return for a player who was operating in the lower reaches of German football a few seasons ago.  

Onel Hernandez of Norwich City and Marc Guehi of Swansea City battle for the ball during the Sky Bet

The Cuban could offer something different for City in the Premier League. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

If the Cuban international can take his form for his country into pre-season, albeit the standard is significantly lower than what he will be facing next season, then Norwich could discover a useful tool for next season. 

But confidence, irrespective of level, can elevate a player's performance. 

Given speculation surrounding the futures of Cantwell and Buendia, who knows whether an opening will present itself. Any opportunity handed to Hernandez will be something he has to grasps with both hands. 

There are still question marks surrounding whether he can step up to the Premier League. 

In two seasons of football, he has registered one goal and two assists. Neither of which came this season, although it's important to contextualise those numbers. Hernandez played only 582 minutes of Championship football this season, fewer than his last two campaigns. 

Hernandez won't be a frontline option from the start of their Premier League campaign, but the ball is in his court to prove why he is a credible option from the bench. 

There is a rawness to his game and his decision making can let him down on some occasions inside the final third. 

There is no ignoring it, the upcoming portion of his Norwich City story feels like the most pivotal yet.

Norwich are open to proposals from elsewhere for his services this summer, but there is no desire to push him out of the door. Hernandez is a popular part of the dressing room and seen as a cultural enabler around the place. 

Manchester United defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka did a fine job of frustrating City winger Onel Hernande

Hernandez' tussle with Aaron Wan Bissaka was evidence of his persistence. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

City can't afford to carry passengers. Hernandez is likely to be given a chance to prove his worth with a chance to reassess matters in January. 

He is trusted by Daniel Farke, a man he describes as the 'best coach he's worked for' and respected by his peers. He does offer a skillset different to City's current attacking options and the consensus is that those players with pace were the best performers in the top-flight last time around. 

Hernandez' battle with Aaron Wan-Bissaka against Manchester United was intense and engrossing. Eventually, he did score. It may have meant little to City's chance of extracting points from that encounter, but it was a mark of his persistance. 

That is a characteristic the Cuban will need to display if he is to force his way back into Farke's starting plans. 

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