Plenty of time for Marshall to shine despite difficult start at Norwich City
As his former loan team prepare for a Carrow Road battle, David Freezer assesses what's gone wrong for Ben Marshall since Norwich City pipped Millwall to the winger's signature this summer.
The arrival of Millwall is sure to prompt a tinge of frustration for Norwich City wide man Ben Marshall at Carrow Road on Saturday.
The summer signing is yet to get going as a Canaries player, after playing a key part for the Lions during their surprise chase of a play-off place in the Championship last season.
Marshall had found himself out in the cold at Wolves after the big spenders’ influx of overseas talent, so headed to south London on loan in January.
The move proved the spark he needed, with five assists and three goals in 16 Championship games seeing the former England Under-21 international playing a key role for Neil Harris’ team, primarily on the left wing.
Fresh from promotion, Millwall did so well during their return to the second tier that they eventually finished just three points adrift of a surprise place in the play-offs, in eighth place – their highest league finish since back in 2002.
Unsurprisingly, a permanent bid for Marshall followed. No less than a club-record £1.25million offer was reportedly lodged with Wolves, only to be gazumped by Norwich agreeing a deal worth around £1.5m.
Homegrown, a former team-mate of Grant Hanley and Jordan Rhodes at Blackburn and with plenty of Championship experience; the 27-year-old looked an ideal addition to Daniel Farke’s squad.
“Ben is a very versatile player. He can play on the right and left side of defence and midfield,” City’s head coach said when the signing was completed in late June.
“When he plays on the left, he likes to cut in on his strong right foot. This helps him be a threat close to the opponents’ box.
“Also his set-pieces are really good. In addition to that, he’s a really nice guy. Whoever I spoke to – whether it was players, coaches or agents – praised his character. We’re very pleased to have him.”
That versatility has not yet worked in the former Manchester United trainee’s favour though, as the opening months of his Canaries career have brought one assist in six appearances.
Marshall showed promise at right-back during pre-season, particularly showing his ability to surge forward and create during a 3-1 win away to League One side Luton in the penultimate friendly.
That defensive position proved his starting position in the league as well – beginning solidly during a 2-2 draw at Birmingham on the opening day.
A fine cross picked out Jordan Rhodes in the first half, only for the striker to be denied by keeper Connal Trueman, and a sharp pass down the right allowed Onel Hernandez to score City’s first equaliser.
However, misjudging a cross in the 4-3 home defeat to West Brom which followed saw Tim Krul concede a penalty from which Jay Rodriguez scored. The following 2-1 loss at Sheffield United also saw Marshall lose track of David McGoldrick as the former Ipswich man teed up Billy Sharp’s late winner at Bramall Lane.
Aerial awareness very quickly seemed to be an issue and Ivo Pinto was brought back in at right-back against Preston, as Marshall was moved into midfield but struggled to make an impact during that 2-0 win.
A late cameo from the bench with City already 3-0 down at home to Leeds followed – and then Max Aarons arrived.
The 18-year-old grabbed his chance during the 3-1 cup win at Cardiff and hasn’t let go since, making City’s right-back berth his own, with Marshall missing out on derby day at Ipswich completely.
Things then took a turn for the worse when a stomach bug left the summer signing feeling ill for the best part of two weeks, causing him to lose weight – a similar issue which disrupted Christoph Zimmermann midway through last season.
Two games with the under-23s followed as Marshall recovered full strength but it wasn’t until the last two league games, the victories over Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday, that he returned to the substitutes bench.
In total Marshall hasn’t played in any of the Canaries’ last 13 matches, putting him back to square one as his former club head to Norfolk this weekend.
With Aarons shining at right-back, Onel Hernandez recovered from hernia surgery to continue his progress on the left wing and Emi Buendia rapidly improving with two goals in two games on the right wing, it hasn’t left much room for a player with over 200 Championship games on his CV.
Given the super form of Farke’s team’s has moved them firmly into the early promotion mix, the prospect of having Marshall, Grant Hanley and Kenny McLean to add to this team is certainly an exciting prospect for City fans.
• Marshall spoke to City correspondent Michael Bailey on the eve of the new season, you can look back on that interview above