Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s pre-season German trip
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict on the Canaries' week-long stay in Daniel Farke's homeland.
1. Flexible friend - In the grand scheme of things, changing City's backline from a flat back four to a three, with wing backs bolstering the midfield, may not appear a tactical revolution. But Farke's call during the interval of Friday's 3-1 tour finale victory at Bielefeld perfectly illustrated City now have a figurehead who can react to the flow of a game in real-time. Farke was parachuted into Norwich with a reputation as a progressive coach and deep thinker. That flexibility to alter the course of a contest appears more marked when contrasted with the rigidity that characterised Alex Neil's final months. Neil was routinely castigated for his adherence to the same system, reluctance to use substitutes and a reticence to be proactive in the heat of battle. Farke himself has stressed any pre-season trends should be placed in a proper context but the ease with which his players adapted and the positive outcome in a second half they controlled on Friday bodes well.
2. Firing Gunn - The Manchester City youngster will know his family name garners plenty of early goodwill at Norwich City. The back story to Angus' arrival is a nostalgic reminder of times past at Carrow Road, but Gunn junior must make his own mark. He has the pedigree. Of that there is no doubt, given he is coming through the ranks at one of Europe's biggest clubs. But the simple fact he is yet to make a league appearance in his young career carries an element of risk for both parties. Gunn's return to Norfolk is laced with sentiment but Norwich offers him the chance to play regularly. One need only look at Jordan Pickford's meteoric progress for Sunderland and subsequent mega-money transfer to Everton. Pickford was similarly unheralded 12 months ago, albeit operating in the unforgiving Premier League. Gunn's comfort with the ball at his feet is a key attribute in the style Farke wants at Norwich, but a sublime late fingertip save at Bielefeld - after a half of almost total inaction with City firmly on top - was the mark of a top class operator.
3. One of a kind is not always a good thing - Alex Tettey earned that personal tribute from Alex Neil last season. The Scot was highlighting Tettey's unique brand of muscular combat, his ability to read the play and fire-fight in front of Norwich's back four. Farke praised the same attributes in Germany. Tettey was set for a 70-minute outing at Bielefeld but remained on the pitch to ensure City sealed the friendly win. When Norwich operate in the 4-1-4-1 formation they started Friday's game, Tettey looks the most natural choice available. But even after his recent international retirement, previous evidence suggests the Norwegian's body will not cope with the rigours of Championship combat for the entire duration. Look around the rest of Norwich's squad and in the prolonged absence of the unfortunate Louis Thompson there is no other similar asset. Harrison Reed and Steven Naismith can both bite into tackles but they are creative, offensive-minded midfielders. City may need to invest in some cotton wool.
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4. Red lines and Nelson Oliveira - Five goals and counting in pre-season underline the residual value of Oliveira. His slaloming solo effort to clinch the win in Bielefeld, after scoring a few days earlier against Duisburg, was simply a thing of beauty. The intent, the precision, the unerring accuracy of his instinctive finish into the bottom corner demonstrated this is a player who must be retained if Norwich are to mount a genuine Championship promotion challenge. Oliveira himself reiterated in Germany he is happy in Norfolk. but do not expect that to quell the transfer speculation. City's rivals will also know his potential value but following a major summer squad overhaul now is the time for Norwich to protect their most prized commodities.
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5. Back to Blighty - Farke's philosophy and his familiarity with German football ensured Norwich returned home with a faultless win record. Both MSV Duisburg and DSC Arminia Bielefeld had no interest in the type of high press employed by a committed Stevenage in the last domestic friendly prior to departure. A duel that caused City such an uncomfortable evening in atrocious conditions. Expect Charlton and perhaps to a lesser degree Premier League Brighton to adopt similar tactics in these remaining two friendlies. Find the remedy against English opponents - one that enables Farke's side to build from the back and escape the suffocating attentions of strikers intent on forcing turnovers deep in Norwich territory - and there could be more better days than bad in the coming months.