Matt Howman: Academy boys could pave the way to a brighter future for Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 17:00 17 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:50 18 September 2018
Saturday’s performance was greeted with refreshing positivity across the board from Norwich fans and with good reason.
To a man every player did their job and played their part in what was perhaps the best performance we’ve seen so far this season.
A well-fought clean sheet shouldn’t go unmissed either.
Tim Krul showed the presence we should come to expect from an experienced keeper but it was the two full-backs which were City’s most promising takeaway from the game.
Eighteen-year-old Max Aarons, Norwich’s first goalscorer born in the 21st century, has thoroughly impressed with a full first-team debut against Ipswich and kept his place against Middlesbrough, where he looked completely at home in the right-back position, providing the solidity that’s been lacking from Ivo Pinto in our early season matches.
His left-back counterpart, Jamal Lewis has been a massive boost to Norwich since returning from injury.
At only 20 years old he is already proving himself to be a top player in the Championship, utterly unfazed by any opposition and the two together could fast become our most valuable assets.
Daniel Farke’s style utilises players in defensive positions and rightly or wrongly, the method of drawing the opposition forward puts a lot of pressure on all four players across the back.
Middlesbrough decided to use Britt Assombalonga and Jonny Howson to press us high up the pitch and it was both Lewis and Aarons that looked most comfortable in dealing with that pressure. Our senior players are the ones which are looking more susceptible to making a mistake and losing possession.
Our first five games prior to the derby saw us really falter in defensive situations.
James Husband at left-back simply wasn’t a viable option at this level and we were seeing mistakes creep into games from defenders in all positions. Having a more consistent line-up is going to be much more beneficial and we should begin to concede less goals, especially ones where Farke is looking back and pointing to scenarios that could easily have been avoided.
Looking at our full-backs, the left-back position remains unchallenged for Lewis; this hasn’t detracted from his performances but it’s an ongoing concern if he picks up another injury.
Aarons is up against both Pinto and Felix Passlack for his place and based on his last two performances I can’t see him giving up the shirt easily. The balanced defensive approach he has gives Emi Buendia more license to push forward, whereas with Pinto we’ve seen him continuously bomb forward at every opportunity and leave us exposed too often on the counter attack.
We’ve yet to see Passlack in first-team action but as a fan I’d be much happier to see Farke utilise youth and give these players a platform to improve because while I still can’t see us challenging for the top six, we’ll be better off in the longer term developing young players who go on to sign long-term contracts at the football club.
Regular match time for players like Aarons, Lewis and Ben Godfrey are great for the club and also a great advertisement for the youth academy and the scouting department.
The financial situation at Norwich has been well documented and with Josh Murphy and James Maddison departing in the summer, the last of our “high value” players are now off the books.
Bringing through the youth is now the most sustainable way for the club to move forward so I’m happy for Farke to continue putting his trust in these players and also give them the freedom to express themselves in the way they play.
One of the highlights of Saturday’s game was seeing Lewis pulling off a Maradona turn in defence to get himself out of trouble. Cool, calm and collected - it’s exactly what we as fans want to see.
Wednesday brings another challenge away to Reading, the games come thick and fast at this time of year and I’d expect to see all three feature at some point in what will be hopefully another three points taking us to a more respectable place in the table.