Norwich City Report Card: Time for Marco to move out of the shadows?
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Injury curtailed Marco Stiepermann’s first season at Carrow Road. But it was already looking like a frustrating debut bow. Paddy Davitt assesses what next in the latest of our City summer report card series.
Given Norwich City’s enduring struggles in front of goal Marco Stiepermann was probably responsible for one of the quotes of the season.
The 27-year-old, speaking back in November, revealed he had been a striker in his early days, as Daniel Farke continued to dabble with him at full back and in midfield during those exploratory months following his summer signing from Bochum.
“Our possession game is good for me. I get the ball a lot, I like the long runs down the side,” he said. “It’s my first time playing full-back and I like it.
“Normally I’m an offensive player and I feel like I was born to score goals.
“I started as a striker and played often in midfield last season, but the coach wanted to try something. I like it.
“I have to improve my defence because it’s a new position for me.”
To be fair to Farke, there was little compelling evidence Stiepermann’s versatility might also stretch to a stint leading the line as a fearsome frontman, in place of Nelson Oliveira or Cameron Jerome, prior to his New Year sale.
Stiepermann’s revelation came a couple of weeks after a massive chance in the 2-1 home league defeat to Derby County that triggered a prolonged downturn.
Clean through inside the Rams’ penalty area during a dominant first half from the hosts, and with Scott Carson to beat, he hammered a rising left-footed shot against the bar from close range which bounced down on the line and back into play.
Fine margins indeed. Who knows what the season may have held for both the former Borussia Dortmund trainee or his new club had City rolled resurgent Derby a matter of days after that gruelling League Cup exit to Arsenal.
Stiepermann’s debut tour in Norwich colours was curtailed by a hernia operation in February; his final first team appearance ironically coming at the IPro in the reverse fixture.
The 27-year-old did open his goal account with a thumping strike from the edge of the area in the defeat at Cardiff City, but much like the Canaries, you have to rank Stiepermann’s first spell in England as something of a mixed bag.
At Sheffield United, way back in September, he offered a more than passable impression of an accomplished left-back; aggressive in the challenge and willing to get forward in support of Josh Murphy that day at Bramall Lane.
But with James Husband recruited as a specialist in that position and the return from injury and then the blossoming of Jamal Lewis, Stiepermann reverted to a general midfield option.
Much like the other arrivals from the continent since Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber took control, one would expect a stronger showing second time around.
Stiepermann also spoke in that same November interview about the huge difference in strength and athleticism he had encounter compared to players operating in Bundesliga Two. There should be no surprises next season in the Championship.
But with City’s squad already looking amply stocked across the middle of the park he must realise such intense competition for places may again leave Stiepermann’s versatility as the one-time striker’s most valuable commodity.