TOP THREE: Ranking the Canaries' summer transfer business
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images & Matthew Usher/Norwich City
With the major business of Norwich City's summer transfer window completed, we asked our correspondents to rank their top three signings of the nine Canaries new boys.
1 - Ozan Kabak
The final piece of the jigsaw, and he could potentially prove to be the most important. At 21 you might have concerns about Kabak's relative lack of experience. But this is a raw-boned, mean looking central defender who came through at Galatasaray before moving to the Bundesliga in his teens.
If Jurgen Klopp recruits you, albeit as a stop gap measure in a loan spell at Liverpool last season that brought Premier League and Champions League exposure, then you certainly have the pedigree to improve Norwich’s backline.
Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson were resolute and obdurate in the latest Championship title win engineered by Daniel Farke. City’s defensive resolve was a marked feature of that triumph, but at the very highest level both remain largely unproven.
There were also signs against Leicester City at the weekend to suggest Kabak's robust approach, his powerful frame and ability in possession will be useful additions. Whether it is one from two alongside him, or the added flexibility Farke now has to deploy a top flight defensive three, Kabak is a permanent fixture. If he has the personality to emerge as a leader into the bargain, it looks a fine piece of business.
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2 - Christos Tzolis
Farke’s ‘one for the mid to longer’ term label lasted for roughly the duration of a spell-binding League Cup debut against, admittedly, a second string Championship line up in Bournemouth.
Two goals and two assists underlined the teenage Greek attacker can offer that X-factor City will need to worry Premier League opponents in the final third.
Tzolis was fearless and full of energy. His infectious, high tempo approach rubbed off on his team mates, and caused palpable excitement among the home fans getting their first glimpse of a player Farke rates as potentially ‘world class’.
With the greatest respect to the rest of his personnel, there are not too many you would say can be put in the same bracket. Yes, he will need time and patience, and the precociousness of youth can also bring inconsistency. But he has something.
3 - Mathias Normann
Olly who? One now hopes the Norwegian international can deliver the defensive midfield protection Norwich have sorely lacked in the opening three Premier League games since it became clear there would be no return for Tottenham’s Skipp.
That is a huge burden and responsibility on Normann’s shoulders. Particularly given his previous spell in England at Brighton passed most by. But he certainly does not lack for confidence or self belief.
If Farke can now find the right blend with the likes of Billy Gilmour, Pierre Lees-Melour and Kenny McLean to name but three, then we may start to see the emergence of a residually effective approach at the highest level with and without the ball. But Normann will be the catalyst.
1 – Mathias Normann
Picking a top three isn’t easy as I can see a lot of sense in all of City’s business but with the benefit of the opening three games, the addition of a defensive midfielder was absolutely crucial.
That isn’t complete recency bias either. Replacing the unselfish and crucial protective work of Oliver Skipp was always critical, particularly in light of Alex Tettey’s return to Norway.
The improved defensive security provided by Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley – who are both currently making their way back from injury – was aided significantly by Skipp’s presence, who in turn allowed the full-backs added freedom.
It appears Daniel Farke feels that deeper midfielder needs to contribute even more for City to thrive in the Premier League though, with Normann having a reputation for a good passing range and a desire to shoot from distance.
His focus should be on defence first, in my opinion, in the hope that improved results and team confidence can then allow the 25-year-old to flourish.
Predicting the success of someone moving from Russia to the Premier League seems precarious though and expecting him to immediately provide the missing ingredient is optimistic.
Yet he brings strength, character and hunger to a Canaries squad that does have quality and variety, but is yet to find its rhythm after a disrupted pre-season and a manic transfer window.
Normann’s success is likely to be reflective of that wider objective of becoming established.
2 – Milot Rashica
The Kosovo international looks to be a really smart capture for City, bringing a strong Bundesliga record and solid attacking attributes.
During the first half against Liverpool and throughout against Leicester, the winger really looked a threat, with speed and good control making him difficult to stop.
The area which hasn’t been up to scratch yet has been his finishing, with a particularly disappointing free-kick against the Foxes – although he delivered some excellent corners.
After the cup exploits of Christos Tzolis, Rashica knows he has hot competition from the youngster as well, who appears to be of a very similar style.
If he can demonstrate some of his spectacular Werder Bremen finishing against the likes of Watford, Burnley, Brighton and Brentford during the next two months, then a new City star will be born.
3 – Billy Gilmour
I’m going to keep faith with the Chelsea loanee to come good, after a brutal introduction to life playing for a newly-promoted club.
We saw what he’s capable of against England at the Euros and have seen flashes of his capability on the ball even though he’s struggled defensively at times.
Whether it’s being free slightly in a 4-3-3 shape or alongside a partner in a switch back to a 4-2-3-1, the 20-year-old has too much ability and top-level ambition to not develop and improve on his opening few weeks.
1 - Mathias Normann
For anybody who has watched Norwich City play so far this season, the lack of defensive protection has been nothing short of staggering at points during the opening matches.
Billy Gilmour, whilst capable of fulfilling this role for a side dominating possession, has left gaps and not offered the defensive protection City had with Oliver Skipp last season. Not only does the arrival of Normann fill a gaping hole in their squad, but hopefully it frees up the Scot to play in a different role.
It's obvious to say that the Norwegian international won't be the messiah and instantly fix those issues, but he offers Daniel Farke with a tool that has been missing so far this season. City's boss has been forced to deploy a fairly rigid midfield three to date, Normann's arrival allows him to be more flexible in the centre of the pitch.
His underlying data looks impressive. Normann has passed the eye test of City's recruitment team and they have fought hard to secure his signature. Their interest backdates to May and they retained their patience despite knockbacks from both player and club at different stages.
If Normann is the player everyone hopes he can be, then Norwich may have uncovered another gem. One that helps them secure their top-flight status.
2 - Christos Tzolis
You can't talk about patience without mentioning Christos Tzolis.
Norwich have been tracking the teenager for over a year. Talks with PAOK were ongoing for over 10 weeks. But their persistence paid off and they were able to sign a winger who has, at different stages of his career, attracted interest from Manchester United, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund.
The hype surrounding his arrival has been tough to play down. Even Farke, a coach known for his tough love approach when it comes to young players, has labelled him as having the potential to become a player worth £100m.
If his City debut was a small window of what is to come, then Norwich fans are set to be blessed by a player who could grow into something special. There is still a rawness, but Tzolis seems to have the innate ability to both score goals and create chances.
Injury has prevented him from being handed his first minutes in the Premier League, but for a young player who has met every challenge with confidence, it only feels like a matter of time before we see him excel on arguably the biggest stage.
3- Ozan Kabak
You only have to look at Kabak's CV to realise the coup City have achieved by convincing him to join them on a season-long loan.
Kabak has swapped Anfield for Carrow Road and is the archetypal modern centre back that Farke adores working with. After a difficult spell with Schalke, there is an element of rebuilding to do, but his Bundesliga education has seen him develop into a better player.
Before he arrived in Gelsenkirchen, it seemed every top club in Europe were chasing his signature. The 20-year-old seemed destined for a move to Milan until Schalke stepped up their interest and signed him for a reported £15m.
Despite a tough spell at Schalke, Kabak's stock seems to be rising. If Norwich get the player that was beginning to hit form at Liverpool, then the Turk could be the signing of the summer.
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