Bradley Johnson replacement has big boots to fill for Norwich City
- Credit: PA
Norwich City writer David Freezer examines who can try to fill Bradley Johnson's boots during his two-match suspension.
He's the favourite for Norwich City's player of the season award, he's scored 13 goals from midfield and he's become City's talisman – but now Bradley Johnson faces a spell on the sidelines.
The swashbuckling 27-year-old picked up his 10th yellow card of the campaign on Monday – after scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday – and subsequently faces a two-game suspension.
It means Canaries manager Alex Neil is being posed the latest in a string of difficult questions since picking up the reins at Carrow Road in January, as he attempts to keep City's promotion thrust in shape. Who will be the man Neil turns to in an attempt to replace Johnson for the next two games?
There appear to be three main candidates vying to fill the boots of Johnson for matches at Bolton on Saturday and Leeds on Tuesday.
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The pace and skill of winger Nathan Redmond could return to the fore, or the experience and reliable passing of Gary O'Neil could keep the City ship sailing smoothly.
Or there is the wildcard option: Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe.
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The tall Belgian midfielder could be a dormant volcano ready to erupt after an unfortunate first season in English football.
He has had to bide his time while recovering from damaged knee ligaments during City's 0-0 draw at Sheffield Wednesday in October.
After playing four matches for City's under-21s earlier this year as he stepped up his recovery, the former Club Brugge man has been on the periphery of the first team in recent weeks.
He made his long-awaited return as an 89th-minute substitute against Wednesday, in place of Johnson. Can he now step up to the mark and prove why City were willing to pay a reported £3million for his services last summer?
It may be that O'Neil and Odjidja-Ofoe will share the load in Johnson's absence, allowing Neil to stick with a formation which is allowing the Canaries to dominate and destroy in equal measure.
Redmond's return may require the Scot to tweak that system, if he is to create the width the England Under-21 star yearns for.
Whoever is tasked with filling the Johnson-shaped hole in City's teamsheet must be ready to carry plenty of responsibility on their shoulders.
With 13 goals in 38 league games this season, the goal threat posed by Johnson is obvious. The former Leeds and Northampton wrecking-ball's game is about more than that though.
Breaking up possession, disrupting the opposition and making the most of Martin Olsson's pace on the left flank have all been key parts of Johnson's repertoire this season.
Redmond, O'Neil and Odjidja-Ofoe all have the ability to cover for Johnson's absence – now they must prove they have the desire to keep the heart of City's midfield pumping.