David Freezer: Leitner could be the man to lead Canaries’ response to Liverpool loss
There’s no point dwelling on defeats, so how can Norwich City bounce back from their chastening opening-night loss to the European champions? Moritz Leitner could well be part of the answer.
Losing at Anfield came as a shock to no-one, not inside the yellow and green bubble of optimism for the season, certainly not outside of it around the rest of the country and not inside the Canaries dressing room either.
Of course City travelled in hope but to lose 4-1 to a team who came within a point of the Premier League title and lifted the Champions League trophy will not change the approach of Daniel Farke to this season in the slightest.
Had Marco Stiepermann's early efforts not looped harmlessly over, had Divock Origi's cross not deflected off Grant Hanley's shin before he could react, had Jamal Lewis' interception not rebounded back into trouble off Tom Trybull - the hard luck story can go on but the reality is Liverpool were the far better team.
They raced into a deserved 4-0 lead and took their foot off the pedal with Wednesday's Uefa Super Cup final against Chelsea in mind, yet at least found they couldn't switch off against the reigning Championship winners, who very much kept Jurgen Klopp's team on their toes and got the goal they deserved through Teemu Pukki.
Yet the game was over as a contest, the result never in doubt. Essentially the entertaining evening goes down as a prestige pre-season friendly against one of the best teams in the world, at a stadium with one of the best atmospheres on the planet, with the wealth to keep pace with the extravagantly funded Manchester City.
City pundits, fans, players and coaches learned very little that they didn't already know: a self-funded club with an emphasis on developing young players will find it exceedingly difficult to compete with the Premier League big boys.
If this game was watched by the football gods in 10 parallel universes simultaneously, Liverpool would probably have won nine. To beat the Reds at Anfield, you have to catch them on an off day.
Further emphasis of just how difficult the task would be came from the brilliant @OptaJoe on Twitter, who pointed out that with City's starting XI having an average age of just 25 years and 89 days, it was the youngest for a Premier League match since Leicester named a line-up which was 37 days younger, all the way back in April 1995.
That was thanks in chief to four academy products starting the game, with Todd Cantwell's impressive pre-season efforts earning him a start on the left side of midfield, ahead of Onel Hernandez and Patrick Roberts.
It brought about a meaningful reunion for the 21-year-old. He was competing with the Reds' superb right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, a former England U17 team-mate, a player who has made remarkable progress at club and international level.
Cantwell had his hands full tracking Alexander-Arnold, who was involved in the build-up to two of the goals, but also offered plenty of creative moments in attack and may well have done enough to keep his starting place against Newcastle on Saturday.
Another who seems highly likely to be facing the Magpies is German midfielder Leitner, who looked very much like a man with a point to prove after replacing Stiepermann in the 58th minute, earning a booking for an overzealous tackle on Jordan Henderson within two minutes.
Kenny McLean had got the nod to partner Tom Trybull in the deep-lying central midfield positions but the Scotland international wasn't able to affect play too much. Within another two minutes Leitner had rattled the bar with a rising shot, after linking nicely with Cantwell.
The former Borussia Dortmund man played 32 minutes and completed 14 passes, McLean completed 29 in his 90 minutes. That may have been when Liverpool had eased off but Leitner looked like a man on a mission. He was in superb form before an ankle injury disrupted last season in December, looking like a top-flight player in his style of play. Can Leitner now resume his role as the heartbeat of Farke's team, to provide that added midfield control?
On the basis of his second-half display, he's very likely to get the chance to answer that question, with the added defensive muscle of new signing Ibraham Amadou likely to be in the mix as well.
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