Change seems to have become a buzzword around the country this summer, and that’s no different for Johannes Hoff Thorup at Norwich City. 

His mission to implement his preferred playing style continues on the training pitches at Colney, centred around a willingness to maintain possession and be the protagonists in games, Norwich are expected to look and feel a lot different this season.  

For that to be a reality, Norwich will need to balance, and potentially alter, their midfield in a way that permits them to perform Thorup’s wants successfully. With the early weeks of the summer dominated with links away for players in this area of the pitch, there are several issues that require solving for City’s new boss. 

City's midfield lacks specialists—there is a gap for a defensively minded number six and a central attacking midfielder, should Thorup demand either as part of his system. 

That void in defensive midfield has existed since the summer of 2021 when Oliver Skipp returned to Tottenham Hotspur and Alex Tettey ended his long association in Norfolk. It has been a position supporters have yearned to see reinforcements in ever since. 

Last season, Kenny McLean was deployed in a six role, but that was geared more towards his passing ability than defensive or tactical capabilities. Marcelino Nunez or Gabriel Sara are also not naturals in that area - with Liam Gibbs preferred elsewhere last term and Jacob Sorensen yet to get a real run in the side in his favoured role. 

Thorup will be keen to see if Gibbs can reset his development this term in the position that Norwich worked so hard to teach the Suffolk-born youngster when he initially joined the club from Ipswich.

Liam Gibbs will be hoping to rediscover his Norwich City form under Johannes Hoff Thorup.Liam Gibbs will be hoping to rediscover his Norwich City form under Johannes Hoff Thorup. (Image: Focus Images)

His most impressive performances in the senior team came in that area, but there is still a feeling that he isn't a specialist in that role. Sorensen has been handed a fresh chance after signing a new deal at the club earlier in the summer on the same terms as his last agreement. 

Then there are the youngsters - Thorup has liked the look of teenage midfielder Uriah Djedje in early pre-season sessions. The 18-year-old is physically imposing and athletic, but requires some refinement technically. Whether a leap to Championship football is realistic remains to be seen. 

The fact that Knapper and Norwich targeted Jonathan Varane in the January transfer window is evidence that there is an awareness of the void that requires filling in the near future. Whether it will be the Sporting Gijon man specifically remains to be seen, but reports in Spain have suggested he may depart the club on loan this summer. 

There is a balance to be struck, if Thorup gets the balance wrong then Norwich will be exposed. The Dane only needs to flick the history book back a few pages to Daniel Farke’s first campaign in charge when City were on the receiving end of a 4-0 battering away at Millwall. 

At the Den that day, Farke deployed a technical midfield three of Harrison Reed, James Maddison and Mario Vrancic. It didn't withstand the physicality and athleticism of Millwall’s midfield, despite all of those players being supremely talented in their own right. 

That led to changes. Tettey was recalled alongside Tom Trybull and those foundations led to steady improvement in year one. Eventually, it became a pivotal role in Farke’s success in Norfolk.

Even in possession based sides, that role is so crucial to the effectiveness of how it functions. Even a quick glance at the top sides in world football shows the importance of it - Rodri at Manchester City, Declan Rice at Arsenal or Eduardo Camavinga at Real Madrid all play instrumental roles in hugely successful sides. 

Oliver Skipp was an impressive and integral performer for Norwich City during a loan spell from Spurs in 2020/21.Oliver Skipp was an impressive and integral performer for Norwich City during a loan spell from Spurs in 2020/21. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

It isn't just defensively; in the number ten role - owing to Wagner's preference to play a second striker - Norwich don’t have any conventional options to be deployed in that position either. 

At this stage, it doesn’t feel like Barnes will be asked to performed that role. Thorup has traditionally deployed a 4-3-3, but that becomes more of a 3-2-4-1 in build up phases, with the right winger inverting into a central position and the width being provided by the right back. 

If that scenario often witnessed at Nordsjaelland is replicated at Norwich, the need for a number ten isn’t as pressing as that of a number six - but the squad doesn’t provide Thorup with a natural option to push someone into that area if that was a want at any stage. 

None of this is to say that Norwich’s midfield wasn’t functional last season - McLean, Sara and Nunez were effective, but Thorup will be performing a rewiring. 

It will be about control. It will be about maintaining possession and less about supporting presses, energy or producing raking passes out to wide areas. It is a shift that may demand a different type of midfield operator and structure altogether. 

The other strand that will remain in play is the future of some of the key personnel in City's midfield engineroom. The calendar has only just ticked into July and McLean, Sara and Nunez have already been linked with moves away from the club. 

The likelihood of all three remaining at the club is improbable but not impossible. It feels likely that Norwich will need to bring in at least one midfield option at some stage over the summer. The key will be then be the identification of the right profile of operator to implement Thorup’s ideas. 

Thorup will need his midfielders to be press resistant, comfortable with handling the ball in tight areas and capable of breaking defensive lines in their play - that does feel tailor made for Nunez. 

Marcelino Nunez has the technical proficiency Johannes Hoff Thorup will want in his side.Marcelino Nunez has the technical proficiency Johannes Hoff Thorup will want in his side. (Image: Matt Wilkinson/Focus Images Ltd)

Norwich aren’t interested in selling the Chilean. Unless Trabzonspor or anyone else cough up serious money, the midfielder is expected to play a key role in Thorup’s City mission. 

Sara and McLean’s future feels a little less certain. A Rangers move would inevitably appeal to the Scot, whilst Sara is attracting interest from Roma and the Premier League after a stunning campaign last term. 

Perhaps the solutions do lie internally. If Thorup can rediscover Gibbs’ performances in his first senior season at Norwich, there is a real talent at his disposal and if he can unlock Sorensen, there may be some raw minerals still to harness. 

That will certainly be the first port of call for Thorup as he assesses and experiments over pre-season, but the answers may yet lie externally. 

It is a key area of the pitch and one that Norwich will need to get right for Thorup’s style to progress in the way they may like. That means accompanying the shift in style with supplying the right tools to deliver it. 

In a Norwich summer that has so many subplots, it is another to observe and digest as the days tick down towards the start of the Championship campaign.