Norwich City head back to Norfolk after a successful week long training camp in Germany. I say successful because as ever, the focus is on fitness, sharpness and tactics with the ball.
The trip has ended with a win against Paderborn, a defeat against Union Berlin and a draw with Bundesliga side vfl Wolfsburg. All in all, not bad although defensive errors have occurred and that is a slight blemish on what are a number of positives.
I can’t say I’m too worried about the defensive errors because after the signing of Grant Hanley, the emergence of Jamal Lewis and once Christoph Zimmermann got up to speed with the Championship, defending was something that we weren’t too bad at last season.
Hanley and Lewis have yet to feature much in pre-season but assuming they recover okay from their respective fitness troubles, I’d put money on both being in the starting lineup come the opening day.
The goal keeping situation isn’t clear yet and from an outsider’s perspective, it looks to me as though either Remi Matthews or Michael McGovern could get the nod as number one. We could even sign another keeper as well. That’s how unclear the situation currently is.
Having dealt with the negatives and they don’t look a huge problem to me, I can now look to the positives.
Last season’s long running issue was goal scoring and we so often looked like an efficient team in possession but with no cutting edge. The build up play was almost always too slow, allowing the opposition to get back into position and reducing the goal scoring chances we could create.
Not having a striker who could find the net regularly was a huge issue and more often than not, we were reliant on James Maddison to conjur some magic or score a worldie.
With Madders gone, along with Josh Murphy, the coach will need different options and I’m quietly confident that he has improved the squad offensively.
The strike force now consists of Jordan Rhodes, Teemu Pukki and Dennis Srbeny. It looks for all the world that Nelson Oliveira’s petulance will see him cast aside, either going out on loan or being sold if a suitor can be found.
Rhodes and Pukki have definitely added something to the forward line and Srbeny seems more of a threat when he’s playing with a partner, like Pukki. A fully up to speed Onel Hernandez and the new lads, Emi Buendia and Ben Marshall will only add to that threat.
Daniel Farke has used the 4-1-4-1 formation fairly often so far and it was his favoured set up when at Borussia Dortmund. He started with it last season but was forced to abandon it, I think, because his players didn’t fit how he wanted it to work. Whether the squad should just be able to adapt to any system or if that is down to the coach, I’m not sure.
It’s looking like he fancies starting the season with it again though and as I’ve written before, the midfield options at his disposal are impressive. After allowing Yanic Wildschut to go to Bolton on loan, Farke spoke about the need to “trim the squad” a little, as well as perhaps adding some quality.
The EDP’s Paddy Davitt thinks that City are still looking to Germany for players, which is no surprise to anyone, is it?
Another “quality” wide player is being mooted and possibly that new goalkeeper I spoke about earlier as well, we’ll see.
Last summer, the buzz in pre-season was around the emergence of young Jamal Lewis and his impressive performances in the friendly games before injury sidelined him until December.
Lewis caught the eye of fans and pundits alike and this summer, it looks like Louis Thompson has done the same.
Two years of injuries have blighted the midfielder’s recent career but prior to that, he looked on the verge of being a very good first team player in that deep lying position in front of the defence.
I’ve always liked the look of him and he’s impressed me with his ball retention and passing whenever I’ve seen him play. He seems to have impressed Farke too and I won’t be surprised, assuming he comes through pre-season unscathed, if Farke uses him regularly in the Championship.
I say that because after such a long time out, he will need to prove to the coaching staff, physios and himself, that his body is up to the rigours of regular football again.
If he can pass those physical tests then he’ll be an asset. That could spell trouble for Ben Godfrey though, who many assumed would play a regular role at Norwich this season. He may still do that, but competition will be fierce for a midfield starting berth and with Tettey, Trybull and potentially Thompson playing in that defensive role, Godfrey might be looking at another loan spell.
He’s on a decent contract, having signed a four year deal last summer, so there is no need to panic with him. I just wonder if a loan move to a Rotherham or a Bolton, a side like that, could continue his development if Farke thinks he has better options this season.
That is, after all, how to use young players and bring them on in our new academy model. I can’t see Godfrey being sold this summer because there’s no need, the finances are reportedly on a steady keel now. If you and I can see he’s got potential, then Farke and Webber will definitely know it.
As I say, much will depend on Thompson’s fitness. The coach can only play eleven players and if he thinks he’s got a better option than Godfrey for example, then Godfrey is not going to play.
The focus will now return to the remaining friendly games at Luton and Charlton as Farke fine tunes his squad for the opening day which is now just two weeks away.