Paddy Davitt: Martin Olsson’s Norwich City future may hinge on outside forces
- Credit: PA
Martin Olsson tried to do his bit for greater Euro co-operation this summer. Chief City writer Paddy Davitt assesses the chances of another exit.
There is no doubt Martin Olsson can do a job for Norwich City in the Championship. The more pertinent question is whether he fancies it.
Olsson is one of a number of players at Carrow Road approaching the final year of current contracts. Cameron Jerome and Steven Whittaker were happy to sign up for extended tours of duty, but it would be naïve to assume that sense of unanimity is universally shared across Alex Neil's squad. For a club who have dropped out of the Premier League it is natural to expect a degree of player turnover.
Some of the delicate surgery will be on Neil's terms, as he strives to inject a badly-needed freshness. For the likes of Nathan Redmond and Robbie Brady it is likely to be pull rather than push factors at play, particularly given Brady's eye-catching displays for the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016.
Olsson slipped out of the same Group E as the Irish in a tournament that marked the international swansong of his Swedish pal Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The defender started all three games for his country and against the Republic looked no less assured than either Wes Hoolahan and Brady on the big stage.
Olsson's future could be inextricably entangled with that of Brady's, given their close proximity on the pitch down the Norwich left. The former Blackburn man finished Norwich's Premier League relegation season as the first-choice full-back, but Brady's versatility was coveted by Neil. That was perhaps borne of necessity at the outset, as Olsson recovered from shoulder surgery, but Brady was preferred to the Swede during a mid-season lull in results; a move most supporters felt carried far too many negative connotations for each party.
Neil was adamant he lost none of Brady's creativity by switching the Dubliner deeper but undoubtedly Norwich looked far better balanced with Olsson restored to the starting line up. The 28-year-old's natural attacking instincts and dynamism, the athleticism and appetite with which he looks to get up and down the wing, bring a soothing reassurance to City's forward play.
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Olsson was an ever-present in the march to Championship promotion in 2014/15 and should Brady's growing showreel of highlights in France attract genuine suitors to Carrow Road, the Swede's influence would only grow further.
Harry Toffolo still has to convince he can step up and mature into a genuine rival, where Olsson is the finished article, and paired with Ivo Pinto on the opposite flank as good as any full-backs in the second tier. Norwich will need width and guile to break down massed defences in the Championship, particularly at Carrow Road against the lesser lights, and Olsson offers both.
Neil's planning this close season may be driven by football imperatives but inevitably there is a financial dimension as well with Olsson part of that senior group entering the final year of current deals. Should a seasoned international who was an ever-present for his country at the European Championships with a wealth of experience in English football, attract an admiring glance or two, Neil, and for that matter Olsson, have a decision to make.