This summer saw James Maddison depart Norwich City for a record fee reportedly above £20m plus add-ons, to former Premier League champions, Leicester City. Maddison had undoubtedly become City’s biggest threat in attack, as a result, there is an air of uncertainty surrounding the club as City look to new arrivals to supplant Maddison’s attacking prowess this season.
Before his big-money move, Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke praised Maddison, commenting ‘for me, he is outstanding. One-hundred percent, one of the best players in the Championship.’
It is hard to suggest otherwise, last season Maddison competed in forty-four of City’s forty-six Championship fixtures, playing the entirety of twenty-nine games. Maddison was directly involved in twenty-two goals during City’s 2017/18 league campaign, forty-five percent of the forty-nine goals Norwich scored last season.
The City playmaker led the league in terms of key passes, contributing 2.8 per game by January, Maddison had created fifty-four chances more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues, justifying his place in the PFA Championship team of the year.
Aside from the statistics, Maddison’s appetite for important games was highlighted at key moments throughout last season.
During a nine match unbeaten run, stretching from early-September to late-October, Maddison single-handedly ensured three points for City. His most memorable contributions were a long-range effort against Middlesbrough at the Riverside stadium, a sumptuous free-kick against Reading at the Madejski stadium, and the match winning goal against Ipswich in the East Anglian Derby.
With City’s player of the season now plying his trade in the Premier League, the attention will turn to who can cover the substantial hole left in Norwich City’s attack.
The season is only four games old at the time of writing but it presents a chance to have an early look at the forerunners to replace the formidable contribution James Maddison made to City’s attack last term.
After a terrific start to the season from the Cuban born winger, Onel Hernandez is the obvious choice at this stage of the season.
Having opened his Norwich City account with a brace against Birmingham at St. Andrews on the opening day of the season, Hernandez returned to Carrow Road the following weekend to face West Bromwich Albion, grabbing two assists and threatening the West Brom goal on multiple occasions.
Hernandez once again provided an assist against Sheffield United, his third assist in as many league games.
Kenny McLean, a new arrival at Carrow Road is familiar with who he has been asked to replace, having played with Maddison during the latter’s loan spell at Aberdeen during the 2016/17 season. McLean has already featured in numerous positions this season, being deployed in midfield, attacking midfield and as an inverted winger.
Having not yet completed ninety minutes in a Norwich shirt, McLean’s most promising outing came against Stevenage in the Carabao Cup where he created chances from crosses and balls over the top of the Stevenage defence. McLean found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper late in the second half but spurned his chance and almost certainly should have squared the ball to Onel Hernandez, who was unmarked, poised for a tap-in.
The natural choice to replace Maddison is Moritz Leitner.
The former Borussia Dortmund man appears to be one of City’s providers and will be somewhat of a go-to for assists this term, the same could be said for the aforementioned McLean.
Against Birmingham, Leitner provided a superb chance for winger, Hernandez, only for the ball to narrowly skim past the post. Against West Brom, the German created an equally excellent chance for new striker Jordan Rhodes but to no avail.
It was against Stevenage that Leitner’s superb passing finally came to fruition, Marco Stiepermann heading in a superb cross from Leitner, off the back of a short corner routine.
Teemu Pukki, a new arrival at Carrow Road this summer, has enjoyed a promising start to life at City.
Pukki opened his Norwich City account during his home debut for the club against West Brom with a well-deserved, albeit deflected finish. Pukki added a second goal against Stevenage, a superb finish across the goalkeeper from an acute angle. He added a match-winning goal on Wednesday to kick-start Norwich’s season with a goal finished with aplomb.
Alongside the goals, Pukki has already contributed two assists. Pukki provided the cut-back for Jordan Rhodes’ goal against West Brom, and the flick-on from the corner that led to Zimmermann’s goal against Stevenage.
Much like new team mates, Leitner and McLean, Pukki also has an eye for a pass and will continue to create chances this season. It is this creative ability paired with his goal threat that could ensure Pukki is viewed as the greatest contributor in terms of supplanting the loss of James Maddison.
Jordan Rhodes will lead Norwich City’s front line this season. Unlike the previously mentioned candidates, Rhodes will, for the most part, be judged on his goal return, an area in which he has previously flourished.
In 189 appearances for Huddersfield Town, Rhodes scored 73 goals, before moving on to Blackburn where he netted 83 times in 152 games but has since lost his way.
On opening day, Rhodes had two respectable headed attempts saved by the Birmingham goalkeeper. A week later against West Brom, Rhodes opened his account, scoring an instinctive poachers finish, peeling off the defender and finding the space before slotting home from point blank range.
That goal was shortly followed by a poor penalty from Rhodes, after Hernandez won the spot-kick. In the second half, Rhodes was presented with a fine chance to atone for his penalty miss but, after a great cross from Pukki, Rhodes squandered his chance from two yards.
Rhodes added another goal to his tally at Bramall Lane, tucking the ball past the Sheffield United goalkeeper after a sublime cross from Hernandez.
To suggest that James Maddison can be replaced by an individual seemingly overnight is unlikely.
First impressions suggest that to supersede Maddison, it will have to be a collective effort, with multiple players contributing assists, set pieces and goals. Nevertheless, Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki are leading by example with their initial contributions.
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