Timing, choices, deadline day and unity – six things learned from Norwich City’s pre-season finale
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As pre-season comes to an end for Norwich City, David Freezer tees up the Premier League challenge.
1 - Saving it for City's big night
It's important not to peak too early - and Teemu Pukki has made sure he is primed for Premier League action, after shaking off some more pre-season rust.
Okay, maybe I'm being a tad generous, but 30 goals in a promotion winning season earns you that kind of added patience. There's no doubt that Pukki will find his range, as far I'm concerned.
It's when you realise that City's leading light has played fewer than the equivalent of three matches that you can appreciate he is still getting up to speed.
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Pukki showed that he loved the big occasion for club and country last season. Get a chance at Liverpool on Friday and you can be sure he'll pull the trigger, not hesitate like he did against Atalanta and Toulouse.
His radar needs a slight realignment, after going so close on three occasions on Saturday, before going off in the 65th minute looking frustrated. It's time for an injection of that Finnish ice into the metaphorical veins.
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- 2 'Blown away' - Gibson reveals how City wooed him for Premier League push
- 3 MATCHDAY RECAP: Hornets frustrate City in title tussle
- 4 City ace Krul reflects on Premier League interest
- 5 City lose Giannoulis appeal; three-game ban stands
- 6 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 1-0 defeat against Watford
- 7 Spurs loanee Skipp discusses his future and potential of Canaries return
- 8 PRESSER LIVE: City v Watford - Hanley, Pukki, Cantwell injury doubts
- 9 Pressure on Hornets for title-hunting City
- 10 Norwich City v Watford: everything you need to know
2 - Godfrey could be first choice
Who will start in central defence for the Canaries at Anfield? You'll struggle to find many answers which don't include Ben Godfrey during this week.
It's a signal of just how rapid the 21-year-old's development has been under Daniel Farke, from playing 2017-18 as a defensive midfielder at Shrewsbury, let's not forget.
It was the Atalanta game in particular when Godfrey reminded City fans why he has been linked with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Spurs, showing the pace and power to deal with plenty of danger.
The England Under-20 ace formed a fine partnership with Christoph Zimmermann but the German's knee injury means it is Grant Hanley in pole position as his partner, particularly with Timm Klose's hip problem.
His potential is set for an almighty test in the top flight but Godfrey looks fit and firing for the challenge, demonstrating some classy long-range passing and his determination in the air.
3 - Buendia is getting warmed up
"Wait until the Premier League sees Buendia", was among the comments of City legend Darren Huckerby as he gave his views ahead of the new season.
So it was timely to see the Argentine maestro starting to find some form in the final friendly - even though he wasn't playing at full tilt.
The accuracy of his pass for Kenny McLean's goal was superb, taking four Toulouse players out of the game to find his team-mate in enough space to have a crack at goal.
The 22-year-old's set-pieces still need some tuning up but one lovely curling free-kick under the crossbar caused havoc and saw a McLean header cleared off the line. It was also Buendia's perfectly weighted pass from which Pukki should have slotted past the advancing keeper for 1-0.
Add to the mix a shot which clattered the post, more fine passing and plenty of his trademark tenacity and it felt like the former Real Madrid trainee was finding his rhythm, as the big stage awaits.
4 - Midfield balance is required
While much of Farke's team is looking in place ahead of Friday night, one of the points of interest is the central midfield pairing.
Assuming that City stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation which brought them such success in the Championship last season, particularly with centre-back issues seeming to limit the likelihood of playing three at the back, it looks likely to be a straight choice between Kenny McLean and Moritz Leitner.
Tom Trybull is the chief defensive presence in the middle, with Alex Tettey not yet shaking off his calf problem, and it was McLean who got the nod for the Toulouse game - replying with a display full of energy and a fine strike for the game's winning goal.
However, Leitner had looked to be finding his tempo-setting groove against Atalanta, so both are pushing for involvement.
The added ballast of McLean next to Trybull may just swing it from the start at Anfield but fortune can favour the brave.
5 - Rhodes to add striker safety net?
The forward mix may not be settled just yet for City but a fresh scenario has emerged ahead of Thursday's 5pm transfer deadline.
Reports that an offer to take Jordan Rhodes on a free transfer from Sheffield Wednesday were given short shrift by the Owls and the former Canaries loanee was named on the bench for his club's Championship opener at Reading on Saturday.
The 29-year-old didn't get on to the pitch during the 3-1 win but with fresh reports suggesting as much as £4m will be needed to bring Rhodes back as competition for Pukki and Josip Drmic, there was a new twist from prolific prospect Adam Idah.
The Republic of Ireland U21 striker dropped back down to the U23s and scored a hat-trick, including a lovely lob for his third, as City's development squad were beaten 5-3 by the first team of Dutch second-tier side Dordrecht.
If Rhodes arrives then the teen is well poised for loan action. If not, he might just get his chance.
6 - Reds ready to resume their surge
If there was any doubt about just how tough the opening night could be for the Canaries, yesterday's Community Shield clash offered a reminder.
Liverpool's pre-season may have been rather disjointed after their Champions League final win in early June and international duty for many of their star players during the off-season - yet they pushed Manchester City all the way at Wembley.
Mo Salah, Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk all started, with Sadio Mane due to return to training today. That's the top talent that took Jurgen Klopp's side so close to Pep Guardiola's superb team in the title race.
Norwich prepared with a team dinner at Carrow Road after the friendly against Toulouse, when medals for the Championship title were given to players and bouquets of flowers to partners in thanks for their support.
That's the kind of vital unity which success has been built upon - which will be needed more than ever at Anfield.