Leitner must be braver to shine for City – and channel his inner Wes against Leeds
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Fortune favours the brave, a phrase Daniel Farke should ask Moritz Leitner to write out 100 times on a blackboard in a Bart Simpson style. Okay, blackboards may be a bit old school, so an interactive digital whiteboard instead, perhaps?
And the teacher ensuring the midfielder completes every last one of those 100 lines? Wes Hoolahan, of course, a man who could help Leitner fulfil his undoubted potential.
Fittingly, today the Canaries head back into battle at Carrow Road against the team they played in Hoolahan's farewell appearances at the end of last season, just four months ago, Leeds.
The emotional outpouring and tearful farewells dominating that 2-1 victory did not come from Wes spending 10 years in a Norwich shirt playing the easy pass backwards to his defence.
Leitner is not quite the same player as Hoolahan but he clearly has an eye for a killer pass, when he's facing in the right direction. Too often during Wednesday's first half against Preston the German was simply tapping the ball back to Grant Hanley or Timm Klose in defence. At times it resembled a training session of keep-ball.
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Of course keeping possession and trying to pull Alex Neil's well-drilled Preston out of their tight defensive shape was all part of the plan and Farke's team got the job done. However, had a bit more ambition been shown in the first half perhaps Carrow Road wouldn't have been becoming increasingly nervy until a classy finish from Teemu Pukki set City on the road to victory.
That only came after Tim Krul had made two important saves and the visitors had rattled the River End crossbar. Had Callum Robinson's thumping effort bounced down on the other side of the goal-line after hitting the woodwork, the full-time atmosphere could have been so very different.
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Fortunately Pukki and then an almost-comedic strike from Alex Tettey – a thunderbolt after a mare of a performance – got Farke's team over the line. I can't have been the only one saying 'why isn't Thompson on for Tettey?' during that second half.
Leitner had contributed towards Tettey's dodgy night though, as he continually took the easy pass backwards, rather than turning into space and looking for a forward pass. Of course Tettey, Hanley and Klose must be prepared to see plenty of the ball but too often the former Borussia Dortmund man didn't have the confidence to turn into congestion.
Hoolahan's legend will continue to grow as the years pass. I can already hear myself boring the grandkids about how magical the little Irishman was. While the imperfections of the playmaker's game will fade, it will always remain true that what Wes lacked in height and strength, he made up for in bravery.
He always wanted the ball, was prepared to take possession in a difficult place and would look to quickly move the ball forward. Wes wasn't perfect, he would regularly lose the ball as well but that is the nature of attacking play. Without risk there is no reward.
In the 4-1-4-1 formation deployed in midweek Leitner was often dropping deep into space and using his defence in his search for a positive passing position. I would like to see him much closer to the attackers, accepting the ball in tighter situations where that clear passing ability can provide better results.
Losing the ball is part of football, that's what Tettey is there for. That's what Klose and Hanley – looking closer to his best form by the game – must deal with.
Leitner is a project, a player so tempting in his potential for City, if they can just get him back on the path which saw him primed to become a Germany international as a youngster.
Yet this is a guy who turns 25 in December with 163 senior appearances to his name, 89 of them in the Bundesliga, seven in the Champions League. After spells at Augsburg and Lazio didn't work out, Leitner has hit restart by signing a four-year deal with Norwich.
He has shown more willing to compete physically and has made progress already this season. Now Moritz has to believe in his ability and start being the main man.
Farke said this week 'I got the feeling that luck is with the brave' when discussing his decision to bring on Emi Buendia for his lively debut against Preston.
Let's hope Leitner listens to his coach and can channel his inner Wes against Leeds.
My team for today: Krul; Pinto, Hanley, Klose, Lewis; Thompson, Trybull; Pukki, Leitner, Hernandez; Rhodes
A fine Finn-isher
Teemu Pukki is quickly becoming something of a fans' favourite at Carrow Road.
The Finland international's unerring left-footed finish was absolutely crucial to Wednesday's victory over Preston, breaking the deadlock in the 80th minute.
It was typical of the style we've seen from the 28-year-old forward so far, understated and effective.
He took Jamal Lewis' pass in his stride and quickly unleashed a shot into the far bottom corner, leaving Declan Rudd with no chance. Had he hesitated for a second, the chance would have been gone.
When his signing on a free transfer was announced there was a rather lukewarm reaction to the arrival of a player who had struggled to impose himself on Scottish football with Celtic.
Yet three goals in five games so far, all at Carrow Road, have shown Pukki has grown as a player since leaving Glasgow in 2014. He scored 72 goals and set up another 23 during 164 games with Brondby and looks to have arrived in England feeling full of confidence.
Get a life, please
Some people really need to find a better use of their time.
Those of you who like to take in our post-match analysis and reaction at pinkun.com will be familiar with the feature which allows fans to rate the City players out of 10 after every game.
The vast majority of the hundreds who like to share their ratings take this seriously and offer their considered opinion, with the system then showing the average results from everyone: 60pc rated Hanley a 7 and 25pc rated him an 8 etc.
Yet without fail there is at least one person – presumably an Ipswich fan with little else to do with their time – who goes through and gives every Canaries player a one out of 10, regardless of the performance or result.
Whoever you are, get a life.
It will be interesting to see what those ratings are after next Sunday's game at Portman Road though. Two totally new teams for both clubs, with a fresh derby day chapter waiting to be filled. Could City's 10-game unbeaten run be under threat?