City report card: Normann flatters to deceive after bright start
- Credit: PA
The 2021-22 season was a disappointing one for most Norwich City players, but very few saw such a steep decline in form as Mathias Normann.
From an early hero and fan favourite, the Norwegian quickly descended to mercenary status and allowed his loan spell at Carrow Road to peter out underwhelmingly.
He may have come late in the window, but Normann was the marquee signing of the summer of 2021. Oliver Skipp had vacated the deep midfield position and filling it with quality was vital if Norwich were to stand a chance of Premier League survival.
When Canaries supporters were presented with a muscle-laden, tattooed man there was a feeling the early signs were good. It may have contained one too many expletives to quote, but his dialogue upon arrival was equally encouraging in the warrior stakes.
He wouldn't have hoped for a better start in a yellow and green shirt. Less than 35 minutes into his potentially premature debut against Watford, Normann carved out a fantastic pass for Teemu Pukki to latch onto and equalise.
It was a moment that didn't receive the reverence it deserved, possibly due to the regularity with which Emi Buendia picked out similar passes during the prior campaign.
Had City fans known how their side would struggle for creativity later in the season, there may have been more fanfare about that particular assist.
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Perhaps that morsel of brilliance in possession papered over the cracks, however, as evidence of a lack of defensive discipline was already starting to mount.
Where Norwich needed a positionally-sound screener they appeared to have acquired a swashbuckling action man. There was a sense in Normann's play of a child let loose in amateur football for the first time; he was taking every set-piece, chasing every ball and completing actions with no apparent rhyme or reason.
But at least it was something. A beacon of light in a miserable start to the season for Daniel Farke's side. There was a semblance of saviour about the Rostov loanee, with his platinum locks and dramatic air punching.
That air punching reached a peak at Brentford in early November, a game most well known for its failure to keep Farke in a job. What was forgotten in that drama was Normann's early goal of the season contender for 1-0.
The 2-1 win that was part of felt like it could've been a turning point for City with Normann at the heart, but two games later those hopes were shattered by injury.
In just the second game Dean Smith had taken charge of, the number 16 was forced off with injury, sustaining a pelvic injury that would keep him out for over two months.
It was only down hill from there.
With Norwich's star man missing, the strong form shown early in Smith's tenure started to slow, and the desperation for a figure to take the bull by the horns grew.
The team's slight revival late in winter gave the impression that by the time Normann returned he might simply be adding to an already effective side, but that didn't end up being the case.
Perhaps the most devastating blow for City was that when his spell on the sidelines was finally over he was not the player they needed back. What returned was a pale imitation of the man Stuart Webber originally signed.
Canaries fans had expected Normann to come back like a new January signing to revitalise the group, but instead he was on the periphery. When a Premier League player seems absent in the centre of midfield there's a problem, and it rarely left from then on.
His confirmation to Norwegian media that he wouldn't stay for a Championship campaign was another blow to supporters, as a once passionate love affair unravelled rather quickly.
It took longer than it had with the rest of the loan signings, but by the end of the season Normann's inclusion was a source of irritation for the Carrow Road faithful.