Paddy Davitt: Youssouf Mulumbu must convince the doubters at Norwich City
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Youssouf Mulumbu's brief City career so far has been a story of unfulfilled expectations. Paddy Davitt argues the midfielder can still make his mark.
Youssouf Mulumbu's stock has been considerably higher. On what is officially the opening day of the summer transfer window it is worth recalling barely two years ago he was being heavily touted with a £7m move to Premier League heavyweights Arsenal. A series of dominant displays in West Brom's central midfield had reportedly not gone unnoticed by Arsene Wenger in north London. Perhaps the Frenchman was long since aware of a player who had learnt his trade at Paris Saint-Germain, no less, before heading across the English Channel.
Mulumbu remained at the Hawthorns but fell out of favour with Tony Pulis and made a free transfer switch to Carrow Road last summer. Few dissenting voices were heard in Norfolk. Mulumbu looked like the prefect accompaniment to City's play-off winning squad; a streetwise, combative midfielder who had spent a number of years in the Premier League.
That sense was only embellished by some eye-catching outings in pre-season. Nominally a fitness exercise to prepare for the real business ahead, there was no doubting Mulumbu looked to have added something to Alex Neil's ranks. But the final pre-season outing at home to Brentford stalled the 29-year-old's progress. A broken metatarsal required surgery and a long lay-off.
All that gathering momentum was lost and by the time Mulumbu was fit to return he was behind the likes of Alex Tettey, Gary O'Neil, Jonny Howson and even his old Baggies' team-mate Graham Dorrans.
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Mulumbu made just nine competitive appearances in his debut season at Carrow Road; the last coming in that instantly forgettable 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa which was a portent of turbulent times ahead. Neil's task, if he still feels Mulumbu can re-discover the level he threatened upon his arrival in these parts, is to extract that potential which convinced him the DR Congo international could be an asset at a higher level.
Alex Tettey is clearly viewed as the primary option in that screening central midfield role but given the Norwegian's heavy workload and the physical toll it would take a leap of faith not to expect Tettey will need periods of respite during the months ahead.
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Mulumbu should be the logical alternative, but those meagre rations last season leave many unconvinced. Given the luck that eluded him so cruelly 12 months ago, and an injury-free pre-season, the midfielder can still be prove his worth. Much is made of the recent Championship experience of others in Neil's dressing room and Mulumbu is another who knows what it takes to earn promotion.