David Freezer: Trybull or Vrancic need to fill the Leitner shaped hole to keep City on track
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and that may well have been the case for Canaries fans with Moritz Leitner this week.
The German midfielder has become an absolutely integral part of City's success under Daniel Farke and the calf injury that saw him miss the goalless stalemate at Hull only highlighted his influence further.
I don't mean for this column to be negative about Tom Trybull's performance, as we've seen plenty of evidence that he can be a fine operator at this level as well, but Trybull just didn't quite manage to dictate the game in the same style.
Frankly, I'm not sure too many of the players on either side were that thrilled to be on the pitch on Tuesday. The horrid weather gave us a good soaking on our way into the stadium and the rain continued to blow horizontally across the pitch for most of the match. Conducive to nice football, it was not.
However, that's English football and both teams warmed to the task eventually, with Nigel Adkins organising the hosts well enough to fill the gaps and prevent the penetrative passing which tore Swansea apart on Saturday.
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Trybull of course could have been the hero on the night, twice heading wide when he should have been at least hitting the target and also being denied by David Marshall with a shot which needed to be directed towards the bottom corner.
Score any one of those and no one would be talking about the Leitner shaped hole in the Norwich midfield, as it just wouldn't have mattered.
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Ultimately, it didn't make too much difference. Drawing 0-0 away from home to stretch an unbeaten run to seven games is clearly a positive situation overall, with Middlesbrough passing up their chance to claim top spot away at in-form Preston.
With former Germany Under-21 skipper Leitner set to miss out again today, Trybull or Mario Vrancic really need to take on that responsibility, with Leeds nipping at City's heels ahead of the visit of Rotherham.
That Leitner is a fine player really beginning to fulfil his potential was already clear ahead of the Hull stalemate. Turning his loan from Augsburg into a permanent deal for a reported £1.3million is already looking a fantastic piece of business.
Were Stuart Webber to consider cashing in on the former Borussia Dortmund starlet in January – and I'm not suggesting he is – then presumably bids below £10m wouldn't even be considered.
Leitner has averaged 69 passes per game in the Championship so far this season – only Oliver Norwood of Sheffield United averages a higher rate at 77 per game, with both on an 85 percent pass success rate.
According to WhoScored.com, Trybull attempted 58 passes at Hull, with 90pc of them successful. In comparison, Leitner attempted 68 during the 4-1 win at Swansea, 84 during the 4-3 home epic against Millwall and 81 during the 4-0 triumph at Wednesday.
Statistics paint only half the picture and had Trybull played as regularly from the start of league games this season, he may well have found a similar rhythm in tandem with Alex Tettey as his defensive enforcer. In no way am I writing off his part in this Canaries team, but on Tuesday he wasn't able to dictate play in the same way his team-mate has.
Leitner has become the heartbeat of this team. He's the man who starts the flowing moves, the player who gets the best out of Marco Stiepermann and Teemu Pukki, the deep-lying playmaker who makes Farke's team tick.
In one of my early columns of this season I wrote that Wes Hoolahan didn't become a club legend by taking the easy backward pass for 10 years, after being unimpressed at some of Leitner's early efforts. He has certainly wiped away those fears and given the key role he has played, other clubs will be keen on snapping him up should City's promotion push run out of steam.
With two home games against teams at the wrong end of the table approaching, there should be no need for such worries just yet though.
Rotherham and Bolton will almost certainly arrive with a gameplan ready to frustrate the league leaders, Bolton of course somehow holding out for an incredibly frustrating 0-0 draw at Carrow Road last season.
Yet the style shown in recent months means supporters will be looking forward to taking their seat this afternoon, eager to enjoy some of the incisive passing, rapid movement and clinical finishing which has made this campaign so enjoyable.
Given the fine margins of this Championship season and the strength of the chasing pack, let's hope Leitner is back to conduct the yellow orchestra again soon.
Keep up the good work
I'll be proudly wearing my rainbow laces as part of the annual campaign to support LGBT inclusivity today.
City and Aviva are handing out free laces and rainbow cake outside the stadium and there will be a range of initiatives to highlight the campaign with fan groups inside the stadium as well.
Canaries defender Christoph Zimmermann was on the Along Come Norwich podcast this week and it was great to hear him say: 'I think it would be very easy and would be a good thing to do, if somebody were to come out, because I think the club is very accepting, a tolerant club.
'And I have the feeling this suits the whole region, the whole city, the whole county, from what I can say so far. I've not been here my whole life but from the time I have spent here that is what I've witnessed. Also in our team we have very good bonds and we accept people the way they are, for their strengths and their weaknesses, so it would not be a problem at all if a player was to come out.'
A proper Norfolk boy
It was great to catch up with Rotherham boss Paul Warne ahead of his first game as a manager at Carrow Road.
Of course Warne is from our neck of the woods and as a Canaries fan has been to the stadium plenty of times, including playing for Rotherham there a couple of times earlier this century.
It was Diss and Wroxham where the Millers boss started out as a player, joining Wigan from Wroxham at the age of 23 for a small fee – although I'm told was sold to Rotherham after 24 games, as playing 25 would have meant the Yachtsmen would have been entitled to a sell-on clause!
Regardless of that, Warne has stepped up from fitness coach to manager superbly and just a few weeks ago was rubbing shoulders with Pep Guardiola at the Northwest Football Awards.
As a fellow former North Walsham High School pupil, it's heartwarming to see someone clearly still so proud of his Norfolk roots doing well for himself – and hopefully that will continue, after City have won today's game...