Why City shouldn't just 'play the kids' against Coventry

Canaries striker Jordan Hugill hurt his shoulder during Saturday's win at Middlesbrough Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Canaries striker Jordan Hugill hurt his shoulder during Saturday's win at Middlesbrough Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

As the FA Cup third round looms and with a promotion chase still very much in the balance, there’s an argument for Norwich City to abandon this season’s competition, focusing instead on the Championship task at hand.  

The most conventional form of discarding the cup is to ‘play the kids’. There’s an argument for a third-round squad dominated by under-23s, especially given the sort of exposure they’ve already experienced this season. 

David Wright’s development side reached the knockout stages of the Papa John’s Trophy, defeating Plymouth Argyle and Newport County’s first teams on the way to a disappointing 6-0 thrashing by Russell Martin’s MK Dons. The fashion of their elimination may have warned the City hierarchy against further confidence-damaging defeats, but, given the inclusion of some familiar faces, their early results suggest they could provide Coventry City with a stern test at least. 

Daniel Farke has been openly keen on the inclusion of these familiar faces in Saturday’s game, using it as an opportunity to get injured players back up to speed. Jordan Hugill and Tim Krul haven’t seen much time on the pitch since returning from their respective injuries, and can expect to be joined by the likes of Xavi Quintilla and Przemyslaw Placheta in the next phase of their recovery. Sprinkle in fringe players such as Marco Stiepermann and Josh Martin and a competitive team starts to emerge. 

Farke has continually referred to this week as the “FA Cup break”, a hint at the German’s attitude towards the competition this time around. He used the cup as helpful respite from City’s nightmare season in 2020 but, with the goodwill of the fans currently in hand and the understanding that the Coronavirus crisis has provided a condensed season, this is his easiest opportunity to rest players with little backlash. 

However, is resting players and resigning to loss actually the smart decision? 

It’s widely accepted that winning breeds winning and losing breeds losing. While the Canaries’ first choice XI may not directly feel the bounce a victory would provide or the disappointment a loss would serve, the mood within the club will always be affected by results. 

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Hugill is unlikely to be skipping into training if his first start for months results in an unceremonious dumping from the FA Cup. The same applies to players such as Stiepermann, who may feel they’re being put on a par with academy players who have achieved far less than them in the game. 

After Stuart Webber worked so hard to remove negative attitudes from the group in the summer (Tom Trybull, Josip Drmic and Moritz Leitner), the small step back a loss would be, along with the segregation required to split the squad into ‘cup team’ and ‘first-choice’, may not be worth the rest it would provide. 

Even if the same eleven from Saturday’s Barnsley victory was chosen, they’d still have a rare seven days between games, with no midweek clashes scheduled either before or after the Sky Blues visit Carrow Road. 

With my sensible predictions hat on it’s likely a mix of the two approaches that Farke will go with on Saturday, introducing a few academy players who have been on the fringes already such as Andrew Omobamidele and Tyrese Omotoye. They’ll be joined by those coming back from injury as well as a couple of regulars to turn the team into one that’s good enough to win on their day. 

Although with cold analytics and promotion-before-all attitudes we may accept that resting players is the best option, winning against Coventry will be the priority for all Norwich City fans come midday on Saturday. 

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