Connor Southwell: Why Zimmermann’s importance to the Canaries cause can’t be measured
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Christoph Zimmermann’s return to the Norwich City starting XI coincided with the Canaries winning their first Premier League game in eight attempts, but just how significant was the German’s contribution at Goodison Park?
City boss Daniel Farke has seen his hands tied in recent weeks, with the Canaries having to fill the void left by Zimmermann with makeshift defenders in Ibrahim Amadou and Alex Tettey.
Absence is said to make the heart grow fonder, and there was certainly a collective sigh of relief at the news Zimmermann would return to action, with most hoping it would spark an uplift in form.
Working in tandem with Ben Godfrey and protected by a pragmatic midfield duo of Tettey and Tom Trybull, City created a double defensive screen to offer a greater level of protection than witnessed in recent weeks.
In terms of influence, the imperious figure of Zimmermann provided City with a physical stature they've been lacking whilst he's been sidelined.
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Statistics don't analyse the leadership and communication players offer but, if they did, the German would find himself at the apex of that list regardless of whether the captains armband was strapped to his bicep or not.
What City displayed on Saturday was a collective ability to defend within a structured shape.
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Zimmermann served as the lynchpin within that protective construction, marshalling City's troops into a compact, low block within their defensive third.
As Anthony Taylor blew the final whistle, both of the Canaries central defenders embraced, a signal as to their relationship both on and off the pitch.
Godfrey was seemingly free of the extra responsibilty placed on his shoulders during the defensive crisis.
City possessed an increased physical presence, with the 24 aerial duels won equal only to that 0-0 draw with AFC Bournemouth in October. Zimmermann won three of those, more than any other City player on the pitch on Saturday.
In possession, his work in moving City into attacking positions was equally as significant. The German completed four out of nine attempted attacking third passes, with those diagonal switches to either full-back getting City into the final third at regular intervals.
His lasting impact on this fixture and his effect on how they defended display why he's been so sorely missed.