Norwich City boss Paul Lambert impressed by Dani Ayala progress
Norwich City boss Paul Lambert predicts the best is yet to come from Dani Ayala and his blossoming partnership in central defence alongside Zak Whitbread.
The former Liverpool duo were paired together for the first time in the Premier League for the recent 1-1 home draw against Fulham. Back-to-back wins against QPR and Burnley have only served to underline Lambert's faith in his latest new-look central defensive axis.
Ayala's early Norwich career had been hampered by the knee injury suffered in City's Carling Cup exit to MK Dons, but Lambert feels the ex-Spanish youth international has the potential to establish himself at the heart of the Canaries' backline.
'I thought he was very good again (at the weekend). For 21 years of age he has slotted in seamlessly as if he has been here for years and years,' said Lambert. 'I'm delighted with Dani. It's great for him at his age now to be getting regular first team football and becoming more comfortable playing in front of big crowds. He is going to have a massive future in the game. Zak is another quality player. He has been a bit unlucky with injuries here but every time he has been played he has looked really accomplished. I think Dani and him look capable of playing very well together and I obviously have Leon (Barnett) who has been excellent for me and Wardy (Elliott Ward) who is coming back shortly.'
Whitbread has had to overcome his own injury problems to force his way back into Lambert's line up. The American international is relishing his senior role alongside Ayala.
'I think Dani has done superb,' he said. 'He has had a few months out with injury and he has come in and looks like he has played 200 league games. He has been assured, looked great on the ball, defended well.
'He has worked hard after a nasty injury, which wasn't the greatest of starts for him – but I know how he feels and he has come back, showed character and been spot on.'
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Ayala was the last of Lambert's permanent recruits in the previous transfer window when he completed a permanent Anfield switch following Championship loan spells at Leicester and Hull. Lambert remains committed to bolstering his squad for the final push this month, but admitted after watching his side beat Burnley 4-1 he does not expect any transfer movement prior to Saturday's Premier League visit to FA Cup fourth round opponents West Brom.
'I'm not so sure,' he said. 'It's frustrating. I know what I want but we can only do what we can do. I won't bring the wrong people to the club, the ones who you think might just be a squad player. We don't just want people to come in and make up the numbers. You want people to come in and improve it and that is the frustrating thing, but I am sure it is the same for every team. I'll do what I can do. We're looking for players all over the field of play, really. The lads we have here have been fantastic, not just this season, but we know there is a long, long way to go.'