Hints of possible Aarons successor for City as Mumba returns

Bali Mumba of Norwich and Ben Sheaf of Coventry City in action during the FA Cup match at Carrow Roa

Bali Mumba made his first Carrow Road start as Norwich City beat Coventry in the FA Cup - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Max Aarons looks destined for big things in his career but Bali Mumba may just have started to show flashes that Norwich City have a potential right-back successor already in their ranks. 

Aarons is still only 21 himself, 18 months older than Mumba, and has been linked with a host of bigger clubs throughout the impressive early stages of his career. 

So if one of the big boys does decide to stump up the big fee that could persuade City to sell in the future, finding a replacement for a player who has been so integral to Daniel Farke’s attacking style is unlikely to be easy. 

The more experienced Sam Byram has of course shown he is more than good enough to shine for the Canaries if he can regain full fitness. Yet after his regular injury problems and close to a year out due to two hamstring surgeries, Farke has urged patience as the 27-year-old recovers. 

So instead it was Mumba getting the chance to impress and give Aarons a well earned break, having started all 23 of City’s league games so far this season, as well as four games for the England Under-21s. 

The 19-year-old had only just returned to fitness himself after a cruel injury blow in November, hurting his knee in training and initially being ruled out until February. However, after returning to full training recently, the summer signing from Sunderland was fit enough to start Saturday’s 2-0 win over Coventry in the FA Cup third round. 

Mumba had looked bright during the brief pre-season schedule in August having not been in action since March, when he'd been on loan at South Shields at step three of the non-league pyramid, scoring twice in three games for the Northern Premier Division side. 

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He got a start at right-back at Luton in the League Cup with Aarons away on international duty and was one of the few bright points for City during a disappointing 3-1 defeat with a host of players unavailable. 

His development continued with U23 action before a brief Championship debut as a substitute during the 3-1 win at Bristol City in October. His breakthrough moment came two games later. 

Struggling to break down a good Swansea side, Farke turned to youth with 22 minutes remaining at Carrow Road, introducing Josh Martin and Mumba at left-back, during the early stages of Jacob Sorensen deputising for the injured Xavi Quintilla. 

Mumba grabbed his chance with both hands, charging forward to offer the speed and attacking intent on the left that Jamal Lewis used to, causing a host of problems and sparking the move which led to Marco Stiepermann’s late winner. 

That could well have earned him a start in the next game but instead, he was facing a frustrating spell on the sidelines. 

Against Coventry, as with most of the fit-again players returning to action, Mumba rather ran out of steam before being replaced by Aarons in a pre-planned change just after the hour mark. 

Yet his first half efforts had been encouraging. He got across quickly to deflect a Maxime Biamou shot just wide in the first minute, leaving the Sky Blues furious that no corner was given. 

In the fourth minute he charged forward and demanded the ball from Todd Cantwell on the right wing, cut on to his left and hit a rising left-footed shot which keeper Ben Wilson was able to hold. 

With the visitors playing a 3-4-3 formation, he had a lively opponent to deal with in left wing-back Ryan Giles, on loan from Wolves. 

He showed good pace to keep up with Giles but was relieved to see Christoph Zimmermann head a cross clear in the 26th minute and soon after was thankful to Kenny McLean for tracking back after losing possession on halfway. 

Five minutes later he pushed forward and squared to McLean, who spread the ball to Xavi Quintilla to start an attack which would end with Sorensen being crowded out in the box.

Bali Mumba of Norwich in action during the FA Cup match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Ches

Bali Mumba played the opening hour of City's FA Cup success, as he returned from two months out with a knee injury - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Mumba had reacted well to the danger in the 39th minute as a cross came in from the left, tracking Callum O’Hare into the box, but thankfully Dan Barden had read the situation as well and claimed the ball on the floor. 

Soon after he was frustrated that a foul wasn’t given after using his pace to get goal-side of Giles but hooked the ball clear after the resulting corner had been headed away. 

Just after the break Barden reacted well to a Biamou flick across goal as Mumba failed to cut out a Giles cross

McLean talked his way into a booking after reacting furiously to referee Darren Drysdale giving a free-kick against Mumba early in the second half, for a challenge on Jordan Shipley on halfway. 

Soon after it was time to rest, with Aarons replacing him in the 62nd minute, after his first proper action for two months. 

VERDICT: Struggled to contain Giles at times but understandably was shaking off a bit of rust while starting to regain match fitness. There were glimpses throughout though of the speed and style to follow in Aarons’ footsteps.  

Has had to hit the restart button on his development to a certain extent but will be intriguing to see how he develops, particularly if he gets a start in the fourth round tie. 

RATING: 6 out of 10 

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