The conundrum of the midfield options available to Daniel Farke presents an intriguing headache for the Norwich head coach as he looks for the perfect formula to provide his side with some much needed equilibrium.
The capture of Moritz Leitner and arrival of Ben Marshall further strengthens an already dense area of the pitch for the Canaries; one which is integral to the successful deployment of the possession based football Norwich are looking to implement.
Norwich’s game is reliant on technical quality but also an injection of tempo and pace.
These were two qualities Norwich struggled to unearth last season, which saw their play become infected with lateral passing and restrictive play. There was no consistent link between the thirds of the pitch.
Movement off the ball also needs to be improved; often the man in possession of the football was faced with a lack of movement from his colleagues which meant a simplistic pass. Tom Trybull was the closest Norwich got to a deep lying playmaker, but ultimately injury prevented his consistency and his time on the sideline saw Norwich suffer.
That role next to a more tenacious midfielder is imperative to Farke’s style of play.
Whoever vacates that role will need to be technically gifted, but also capable of dictating a football match and having a range of passing in order to provide Norwich’s possession with variation and make it multi dimensional.
Mario Vrancic adapted to the rigours of English football as the season progressed. With the addition of Leitner and Trybull’s regained fitness, Vrancic will need to replicate the form he displayed in the latter end of last season in order to claim a regular starting berth.
His physicality was questioned, but the Bosnian showed determination and often positional intelligence which made him an instigator for progression up the pitch for periods. His game is still littered with inconsistencies, however.
It’ll be interesting as to the role he adopts coming into the next season.
Trybull and Vrancic in a rotation role alongside a more pragmatic midfielder could be the recipe for success next season. Both of those options provide technical quality and a variation of pass, but when they were deployed alongside each other, didn’t provide the back four with enough defensive nous, nor did they screen efficiently.
Even when Harrison Reed started alongside one of the aforementioned options, often the midfield found themselves lost and lacking physicality.
Only upon Alex Tettey’s reinstatement in the side did Norwich source a pragmatism which saw them embark on their best run of the season. Tettey’s positional awareness and tenacity compensates for his lack of technical ability and proved important in Norwich’s season previously.
His apprentice will be Ben Godfrey, who returns from an impressive loan spell for League One playoff runners up Shrewsbury Town. Godfrey provides Norwich with a presence and ability to screen the defence efficiently in a way which previously, only Tettey had the capability to do.
Tettey will more than likely begin the season, however, Godfrey will get game time, and as Norwich have turned an eye towards youth and developing young talent, Tettey could see his position come under threat should Godfrey operate in the manner he did at Shrewsbury.
Godfrey proved he is capable of operating at League One level, and will be keen to display his talent at a higher level, his athleticism and drive means he is capable of holding a midfield together single-handedly. There is a brutality that comes from his physique that could serve its use in the more conventional Championship away fixtures whereby scrapping is needed.
He needs to be partnered with a more creative midfielder though.
Then there is the debate surrounding the number ten position vacated by the brilliance of James Maddison. His shoes are too big to replicate, but in Leitner, Norwich believe they have sourced one of the most technical players in the division. Many have become drawn up on his statistics, but Leitner created chances last season, rivalled only by Tom Cairney in key passes.
He oozes quality.
It’s been some time since he operated as a number ten though, not since his Germany under 21 days, but Norwich will be hoping his quality in the pass and on dead balls results in a better output for the German midfielder.
Who’s to forget Kenny McLean and Todd Cantwell providing stiff competition for that spot also. There is a sense of intrigue surrounding McLean, who arrives with a glowing reference from his ex employers.
Interestingly, prior to Norwich capturing him, he was being operated in a deeper midfield role, before Aberdeen and Derek McInnes pushed him into a more advanced position, which increased his productivity and output.
Todd Cantwell arrives with a point to prove, although it remains to be seen whether he is currently ready to grasp his opportunity in the starting line up. Cantwell may need another loan to introduce him to the rigours of the professional English game, and a pathway similar to that explored by Godfrey seems logical.
Norwich has an array of options in the central midfield. Norwich do need to increase their rota of home grown players in their side however, and if they can get the likes of Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell closer to the first team squad, it would undoubtedly save Norwich some valuable money.
Farke will be tasked with putting together the right trio in the middle phase of the pitch in order to combine defensive stability with technical play. It seems obvious that the need for Norwich to play a more pragmatic midfielder with an ability to screen and provide some muscle is needed in every fixture, particularly in this division.
They do however, appear to have a greater deal of strength in depth.