Robin Sainty: A question of who stays and who goes for Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 12:28 12 May 2018
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Well, at least it's over.
City’s season has been a ragbag of good runs, bad runs, promising performances (particularly away from home) and awful ones, with Sunday’s ultimately falling firmly into the latter category, ensuring that the long-suffering fans would endure another long and miserable trip home.
However, with better than expected news on James Maddison’s injury and plenty of speculation about his future it’s now time to look at the possible make-up of next season’s squad.
Let’s start at the back. I suspect that Manchester City may want Angus Gunn to have Premier League experience next term, but if that proves to be the case I’m comfortable with the idea of Remi Matthews as number one after two highly successful loan spells.
Jamal Lewis has been a revelation but still needs to learn to play the percentages. However, he should continue to develop next season, but needs a better option than James Husband to back him up. It also worries me that Harrison Reed, a midfielder, has looked better at right back than Ivo Pinto, who is excellent going forward but looks susceptible defensively. It’s an area where City need to strengthen.
Clearly Grant Hanley is the key man in central defence, and with Christophe Zimmermann, Sean Raggett and, hopefully, Timm Klose still at the club that isn’t an area of concern for me.
The club also seems well stocked with holding midfielders with Ben Godfrey (who can also play in defence) and Louis Thompson joining Tom Trybull and Alex Tettey, but the big issue will be creativity if Maddison does leave for the Premier League and Moritz Leitner doesn’t return. Clearly Mario Vrancic, whose absence was keenly felt at Hillsborough, will be key, and Kenny McLean looks a real prospect, but Marco Stiepermann still has much to prove so there may be a need for another option.
Much as I’ve admired Reed’s wholehearted displays I wouldn’t choose him over either Trybull or Tettey. I therefore wonder if a loan slot could be better used to bring in a striker, although it would be hard to find someone else who buys into the club to the extent that Reed has.
Onel Hernandez has looked the part as a winger but seems to freeze when the goal is in his sights, while Josh Murphy is a genuine goal threat but sometimes seems reluctant to take his full-back on. Combining their strengths would produce one heck of a player but individually they still need work.
Up front, of course, is an area with no redeeming features, and going into an arduous season with only two strikers was a massive gamble. We wondered why a player as clearly talented as Nelson Oliveira had spent most of his career on loan, but it soon became clear as his fit of pique at Craven Cottage on the opening day became the precursor to a season of massive underachievement in which he often appeared to have no interest in playing for anyone but himself.
With Cameron Jerome jettisoned to reduce the wage bill that left Daniel Farke with the sole alternative of Dennis Srbeny, who shows promise, but will need to produce much more in pre-season to win over the doubters, and clearly this is going to be the key area for Stuart Webber in the summer.
However, the revolution which saw 18 players leave and 14 new ones arrive is over and, subject to departures, perhaps four new faces in addition to those already mentioned (and Webber has already stated publicly that one new signing is already completed) may give Farke a competitive squad, although strength in depth would be a concern.
Once he has that, though, he will need to show that he can push on because expectations will be higher next season, but for now let’s enjoy the summer and see what August brings!