Paddy Davitt: Sergi Canos is a warning to Norwich City’s wide boys
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Sergi Canos’ brief Norwich City sojourn is almost as mystical as Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s stay in these parts.
Granted, the transfer fees were vastly different but there was plenty of excitement whipped up by the Canaries’ success in capturing this exciting attacking talent from Liverpool’s academy back in 2016.
Canos reportedly rejected a new deal to stay at the Reds in order to make his first team breakthrough under Alex Neil at Carrow Road.
That was the plan.
Here was a young wide player who had started out in Barcelona’s academy system, featured for his country at every age group level upto Under-19s, with all the potential and star billing to replace the departed Nathan Redmond.
Now Canos’ enduring legacy, ahead of his return with Brentford on Friday, is a novelty quiz question. Name the team he played against in his one and only senior league start for Norwich? *
That vacancy on the right was filled instead by Jacob Murphy, who slammed home a wonderful goal on the opening day of last season at Blackburn and never looked back.
His ascent to featuring at the U21 European Championships and the Premier League - in a mega-money move to Newcastle United - could have been Canos’ legacy.
Instead, the 20-year-old departed for Griffin Park to pick up the threads of a promising career which had flourished in a previous season-long loan stay at the Bees.
Norwich got their money back. Canos got a chance for another big break.
Sadly, for the likeable Spaniard, ankle injuries have curtailed his involvement for Dean Smith’s squad in recent months.
Saturday’s goalless Championship draw against Barnsley was only his fifth start of the campaign.
Rest assured, he will be desperate to show Norwich fans what they are missing at Carrow Road.
City could certainly do with some cut and thrust from wide areas.
A cursory glance at the current league table underlines Daniel Farke has more than one issue to address as he strives for genuine upward mobility. Fitful productivity down the flanks is just one of many persistent themes.
The head coach clearly favours technically proficient midfielders, players such as James Maddison and Alex Pritchard, who can caress a ball and operate in tight spaces.
But it is hardly a coincidence Norwich’s lack of goals and inability to carve out a higher volume of chances week after week is hindered by a lack of width and variety to their attacking urges.
Both Redmond and Murphy could frustrate but at their best injected thrust, drive and potency.
Murphy’s twin, Josh, is yet to stamp his mark on Farke’s XI.
The raw material is undoubtedly there but the consistency remains elusive.
Nor is it solely a matter of youth and inexperience. Both Marley Watkins and Yanic Wildschut have had opportunities to cement a regular place.
Neither perhaps possess quite the same degree of polish as Murphy, but both have failed to deliver a decent quantity of goals or assists.
Maybe that is the lot of the modern wide player; where the demand is to cut inside rather than hold your station tight to the whitewash.
The art of beating a full back and cutting a ball back from the byline appears an increasingly old-fashioned pursuit.
Now superceded by a desire to veer infield to cause ever greater congestion while adventurous full-backs probe on the overlap.
Ivo Pinto never needs an invitation to move through the gears but such ambition always brings the threat of a turnover and space vacated in behind for opponents to attack on the counter.
The modern flair player must harness defensive responsibility to a degree which was alien to older members of his trade. Such duality seems a thankless task at times.
Canos’ Norwich career was brief but one of unfulfilled expectations.
His successors must strive to avoid the same fate.
* Birmingham City.
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