PODCAST: ‘Size and power’ - City searching for final piece of midfield jigsaw?
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The search for the final piece of the midfield jigsaw is underway at Norwich City, following the signing of Pierre Lees-Melou from Nice.
That was the focus of one of the discussions on the latest edition of the Pink Un Podcast, ahead of the Canaries’ pre-season opener at King’s Lynn Town.
City correspondents Paddy Davitt, Dave Freezer and Connor Southwell were discussing all the latest NCFC news and taking questions from listeners, as Daniel Farke’s squad get stuck into their Premier League preparations.
Among the subjects covered was whether interest in Bournemouth midfielder Philip Billing would persist following the signing of Lees-Melou.
With attention turning to the next stages of midfield recruitment, Dave said: “When we did our live video after Lees-Melou was unveiled on Tuesday morning, a lot of people were asking ‘is that the end of the Philip Billing pursuit?’.
“I think realistically we are looking at one more body in midfield now, aren’t we. We’ve seen Olly Skipp is back in training with Tottenham and stuff, but do you think Billing is that player?
“I think really I’m looking for someone more defensive and more in the Ibrahim Amadou mould, not him specifically, but someone with a bit of muscle like a Nemanja Matic at Manchester United.
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“Obviously you’re not going to get someone of that class but someone with a bit of size and power in that mix, who’s got more of a defensive focus.”
With the exits of central midfielders Alex Tettey, Mario Vrancic and Oliver Skipp since last season, Lees-Melou joins Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour, Scotland international Kenny McLean, experienced Bundesliga performer Lukas Rupp and the versatile Jacob Sorensen.
Paddy said: “I wouldn’t disagree, Dave. As Stuart Webber has said, one of the big lessons he and Daniel took away from last time (in the Premier League) was the physicality was lacking, massively.
“That’s why Kenny McLean was labelled ‘irreplaceable’ by Daniel, because his data would suggest that he was able to offer more robustness in the middle of the park, that Norwich in the rest of the squad didn’t really possess.
“That is the seam that will run through and is running through, all of their recruitment this summer, that it isn’t just about the technical ability.
“The physicality and the athleticism is another level up from the Football League as well. You wouldn’t say Gilmour, Rashica or Lees-Malou are an Olly Skipp like-for-like replacement.
“To take such an integral cog out of the machine and he’s not coming back, we’ll say hypothetically, that will need to be filled somehow or other and I don’t think Kenny McLean is the answer.
“So if those new signings aren’t the answer then I think it’s logical to assume. Are they still in for Billing? Well, for me, I think it’s probably moving away from that now.
“If they’re looking to do another defensive, holding midfielder, then that isn’t really Philip Billing – and it seems they would still like to do something at centre-back and increasingly it seems at the top end of the pitch as well.”
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