David Freezer: Return of Canos reminds us that context is everything for Canaries
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Context is everything in football. Two years ago Norwich City had been top of the table and clearly among the promotion pace-setters under Alex Neil – but all was not well, a feeling of unease undermined a very positive start to the season.
The fantastic 2-1 wins over Forest and Villa of the past week has seen praise pour in Daniel Farke’s direction from all sources, deservedly so after coming from behind in both games, in truly impressive style.
Going into today’s home clash against Brentford the Canaries sit sixth and on 24 points after 14 games. Rewind to 2016 and Neil’s team were fourth with 27 points at the same stage.
That team was being viewed through a totally different yellow and green prism though. The likes of Martin Olsson, Seb Bassong, Graham Dorrans and Cameron Jerome were tainted by a very avoidable Premier League relegation, their performances failing to convince.
Spending around £15million on Nelson Oliveira, Alex Pritchard and Sergi Canos had aimed to breathe fresh life into the club after dropping down to the Championship but were used sparingly during those early stages.
England’s success at the World Cup reminded me of the situation this summer, when Gareth Southgate’s fresh-faced squad had enough new blood to prevent past pain hindering their efforts.
Neil’s team of 2016 carried a negative vibe. Farke’s squad of 2018 has cut enough ties – some enforced by finances – to leave the disappointment of the past where it belongs.
It is the return of Canos to Carrow Road today which frames that situation succinctly though.
Signed from Liverpool for around £2.5m after impressing for Brentford, still aged just 19, the Spaniard was just the sort of young talent City fans were hoping to see emerge.
With the Murphy twins also looking ready to take on the Championship and Pritchard’s much heralded £8m arrival from Tottenham, the exuberance of youth was available – but kept on a short leash by the Scot.
James Maddison couldn’t even be trusted to be on the same leash as the other young pups and was sent to Aberdeen.
Canos played just six games before being sold to the Bees in January 2017. He’d lit up Carrow Road with two goals and an assist during a 6-1 slaughtering of Coventry in the League Cup, earning a start in the next game.
The 3-0 defeat at Birmingham proved to be a bit of a mare for the youngster and that appeared to be that, Neil decided Canos could not be trusted to defend in the Championship. Nine goals in 62 games for Brentford since he left would suggest otherwise.
Now aged 21, you suspect Canos rather enjoyed spanking in a fine goal from 25 yards on Wednesday against Neil’s Preston team, even if it did come in a 4-3 defeat.
But under Farke that youthful edge has been embraced. Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia were all big risks – but they have brought big rewards.
That bravery in trusting unproven players has earned the current City vintage the faith and respect of supporters, willing to give that little bit of patience, knowing that developing youngsters to sell for big profits will be integral to the club building its way back to Premier League possibilities.
All of which will see Brentford arrive at a Carrow Road as happy as it’s been since the Paul Lambert days – rather fittingly, with the former managerial hero about to turn up down the road at Ipswich.
That team was similarly given a bit of leeway, when the club’s finances were in a more precarious state and hungry players were rewarding the faith of their manager
Funnily enough, that Lambert team had 23 points after 14 games – one fewer than City currently have – and they went on to get automatic promotion.
We’re just over a quarter of the way into the season, anything could happen in this crazy game over the next six months – as Lambert’s arrival at Ipswich emphasises.
But continue in the current seam of form and beat a Brentford team who have a new manager who has lost his first two games, who have had 24 hours less rest after a gruelling 4-3 loss in Lancashire on Wednesday, and the Carrow Road smiles will really start to spread around the city.
It’s unlikely but Norwich could even go top of the league today.
Do that and they won’t be flying under the radar of the national media for much longer.
My team for today: Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann, Klose, Lewis; Tettey, Leitner; Buendia, Stiepermann, Hernandez; Rhodes
• Disappointing, Paul
My face at 4.48pm Thursday would have made quite the photo, as news dropped that Paul Lambert was on the verge of being appointed the new Ipswich manager.
I’d only just finished writing about Seb Bassong turning up at Peterborough, just the 18 months after being released from City, when that bombshell dropped.
John McEnroe would have been proud of my reaction to the news that caused most of my colleagues to turn in the direction of the sports desk. This is a family newspaper so I won’t reproduce it in full...
Football is just a mad game, just when it looked like Town were dead in the water, Marcus Evans rolls the dice. Whether it will prevent a slide into the third tier for the first time in 60 years still looks unlikely with a poor squad.
It’s all about the Carrow Road derby in February though, what a spectacle.
I hope Lambert doesn’t get the Andy Marshall treatment though. I’d love to see City fans just turn their backs.
We’re not angry, Paul, just disappointed.
• What’s he worth?
I decided to keep an eye on Moritz Leitner for our NCFC player watch feature during Tuesday’s excellent 2-1 win over an impressive Villa.
It was a pleasure to watch a guy with so much ability really enjoying his football.
Leitner is arguably City’s most important player at the moment, the heartbeat of a Daniel Farke team really starting to tick. From being Germany U21 captain and in the Borussia Dortmund team as a teen, to poor spells at Lazio and Augsburg, we only saw glimpses of his ability during his loan. Now Mo’s found his confidence, he’s looking like a player just too good for the Championship.
City reportedly paid around £1.3m to effectively take a gamble on a player who could come good, if he realised how much hard work is needed to make the most of talent.
I asked how much Leitner is worth in a poll and 28pc of over 1,000 voters said between £5m and £8m, 24pc said £8m to £10m and 17pc said £10m to £12m. For me, it’s an absolute bare minimum of £10m – a rather healthy profit.