Just over a week ago, we asked you to vote on your chosen Norwich City starting XI for the 2018/19 season, presuming everybody was fit, and the results are in.
A huge thanks to the 221 of you that completed the survey, we only had to remove one rogue entry from the data set, who decided Louis Thompson should be right back, which aroused my suspicions, and seeing Grant Hanley selected as both centre-backs and Todd Cantwell as all three attacking midfielders confirmed my suspicion that somebody had too much time on their hands (or was a cloning device!).
So without further ado here are the results. I’ve used a little creative licence in sense of the positioning of the players:
Some may say that this was a predictable result, but let’s take a closer look at each position to see how people voted.
Tim Krul – 99.5% – 220 votes
Michael McGovern – 0.5% – 1 vote
An overwhelming show of support for Krul here. I suspect this may have been different earlier in the season, but Tim has made the shirt his own and has become an influential member of the squad too.
Max Aarons – 100% – 221 votes
Well this one was a whitewash, and quite right too, Max has had a fantastic season and is going from strength to strength. I strongly suspect he’ll play at the top level and internationally.
Centre Back 1:
Christoph Zimmermann – 77.4% – 171
Timm Klose – 14.5% – 32
Ben Godfrey – 7.2% – 16
Grant Hanley – 0.9% – 2
A great vote for fourth-tier Germans this one! As commanding a victory for Christoph as one of his performances on the pitch that make this so richly deserved. He’s been a colossus and is getting better. A more humble man you won’t find either; one who truly appreciates what he has been given here at City, which only adds to his charm.
Centre Back 2:
Timm Klose – 49.8% – 110
Ben Godfrey – 31.2% – 69
Christoph Zimmermann – 17.2% – 38
Grant Hanley – 1.8% – 4
He’s big, he’s Swiss he’s certainly deserving of this! Timm Klose got your vote for the second centre-back role. I think his contract situation will depend on which league we’re in and I for one hope he stays and we’re in the Premier League. For me, he’s our best all-round centre-back.
Let’s take a quick look at the total votes for both centre-back positions added together as it’s quite interesting.
Christoph Zimmermann – 209 – 47.3%
Timm Klose – 142 – 32.1%
Ben Godfrey – 85 – 19.2%
Grant Hanley – 6 – 1.4%
Hanley was, I suspect, most people’s first choice at centre-back before the season started, and Daniel Farke’s too judging by the fact he was made captain, but, much like last season, we’ve played our best football after Grant got injured. It was refreshing to hear from Farke at the Norwich City Fans Social Club Fans’ Forum that Grant still plays a big role off the pitch, giving lots of tips on how strikers play, etc. A mark of what a great pro he is and what a great squad ethos Farke has built.
Ben Godfrey has been nothing short of superb since getting his chance and everybody is now seeing what Farke meant when he said he could be a good centre-midfielder, but a world-class centre-back. Another who is destined for the very top of the game, although he must work on his goal celebrations – smile Ben!
Ben missing out is one of the very tough calls, but I’d have to agree that Christoph and Timm get the nod… just.
Jamal Lewis – 218 – 98.6%
Marco Stiepermann – 2 – 0.9%
Philip Heise – 1 – 0.5%
I assumed this one would be a landslide victory for Jamal and the vast majority voted for him. Let’s face it, he’s been superb once again, particularly going forward and I’m sure he’s also attracting interest from Premier League clubs.
Looking at the rest of the team, the two StieperDude voters were trying to keep him and others in the team so thought it was best to drop Jamal, but, for me, he’s much better in midfield than as a left back.
And one person voted for Philip Heise, presumably off the back of watching YouTube videos, but picking a player yet to play a game is a little odd!
Centre Midfield 1:
Tom Trybull – 122 – 55.2%
Moritz Leitner – 62 – 28.1%
Alex Tettey – 16 – 7.2%
Mario Vrancic – 14 – 6.3%
Ben Godfrey – 6 – 2.7%
Kenny McLean – 1 – 0.5%
Louis Thompson – 0 – 0%
From the results, it’s clear that the majority of people had the defensive midfielder role in their mind when selecting their first central midfielder and opted for Super Tom Trybull. That’s not a surprise to me – if you look at how he played against Leeds away you can see the level he can reach, not only with his tackling and interceptions but also with his passing range. This is something his closest rival for the more defence-minded the two CM roles, Alex Tettey, doesn’t have in his repertoire, as good as he is at the tackling and interception work.
Centre Midfield 2:
Moritz Leitner – 112 – 50.7%
Mario Vrancic – 50 – 22.6%
Tom Trybull – 50 – 22.6%
Alex Tettey – 4 – 1.8%
Ben Godfrey – 2 – 0.9
Kenny McLean – 3 – 1.4%
Louis Thompson – 0 – 0%
Conversely, it looks like people had the more attack-minded central-midfield role to mind when selecting their second CM choice. This represents one of the toughest choices in the squad with Leitner, Vrancic and McLean all good options for the role. Mo was a clear winner here they and it’s nice to see that people remember just how influential he was before his injury. He is a complete player and has the ability to run a game from start to finish. Vrancic came in second and I think leaving out Super Mario is most likely the toughest call to make in the current squad – after all, when he came in after Mo’s injury he was nothing short of superb and won the EFL player of the Month award. Since then Kenny has come in with two very good performances and made himself difficult to drop. What an amazing problem for Farke to try and solve!
Moritz Leitner – 174 – 39.4%
Tom Trybull – 172 – 38.9%
Mario Vrancic – 64 – 14.5%
Alex Tettey – 20 – 4.5%
Ben Godfrey – 8 – 1.8%
Kenny McLean – 4 – 0.9%
Louis Thompson – 0 – 0%
If we look at the overall central midfield picture it clearly shows Mo and Tom are the two favourites for that position and it’s hard to argue. Between them, they have the full package needed for a CM pairing and the pass completion stats and dynamism they bring would be an asset to any team. I did wonder if McLean would get a few more votes, but he’s very much down the pecking order with most.
Attacking Midfield Right:
Emiliano Buendia – 161 – 72.9%
Onel Hernandez – 50 – 22.6%
Marco Stiepermann – 6 – 2.7%
Mario Vrancic – 2 – 0.9%
Todd Cantwell – 1 – 0.5%
Moritz Leitner – 1 – 0.5%
He’s from Argentina, signed from sunny Spain, is 5ft… you get the idea. Emi Buendia has walked the AMR role. I remember Stuart Webber saying at the first Norwich City Fans Social Fans’ forum that we’d all be impressed once Buendia was fit and he wasn’t wrong. Emi is a gifted both in terms of passing ability and going past his man. His assists and key passes have been superb, and there are only two minor criticisms: his shooting is a little erratic and he’s given away two pens. Maybe he could start taking them and make amends!
Attacking Midfield Centre:
Marco Stiepermann – 177 – 80.1%
Mario Vrancic – 14 – 6.3%
Emiliano Buendia – 13 – 5.9%
Moritz Leitner – 10 – 4.5%
Todd Cantwell – 4 – 1.8%
Kenny McLean – 3 – 1.4%
What makes Stiepermann’s performance this season even more impressive is that last season we thought he’d been signed as a left-back. To put that in context, imagine Wes playing at left-back – it makes you realise just how good he was. Now that he’s in his favourite position we’re seeing the real Marco and it’s a joy to behold. His through balls for Pukki have been superb and his physicality and ball winning ability often provide an outlet and create chances for the team. It’s no surprise to me that Marco has won this so convincingly, I know I left him out in my original article for Vrancic, but with hindsight, I was wrong – he deserves this place.
Attacking Midfield Left:
Onel Hernandez – 157 – 71%
Emiliano Buendia – 47 – 21.3%
Marco Stiepermann – 11 – 5%
Todd Cantwell – 5 – 2.3%
Kenny McLean – 1 – 0.5%
Should Onel Hernandez have won this vote? Does he love Argos and Morrisons? Of course he does and of course, he should. I’ve never seen a player who can twist and turn so much and at such great pace. I’m not always convinced he’s sure what he’s about to do, but if he doesn’t know how can the opposition! Farke’s coaching has really improved his final decision making and end product too, although it’s not always 100%. He’s been simply brilliant this season and weighed in with keys goals and assists.
Teemu Pukki – 220 – 99.5%
Jordan Rhodes – 1 – 0.5%
This is another one where I was expecting 100% agreement, however, it seems one person felt 23 league goals and 8 assists wasn’t enough of a contribution!
I have heard arguments stating that if Rhodes had played in the team for the same amount of games / time as Pukki he’d have scored more, but that’s a very strange take on things. He may have done, he may have not. The fact remains that Teemu has been exceptional this year and is exactly the type of player Farke requested in the summer. He’s almost the polar opposite of Nelson Oliveira (thank goodness). He aims to get in the danger zone at the earliest opportunity with exceptional and constant movement, which is a dream for midfielders with an eye for a through ball such as Leitner, Vrancic, Stiepermann and Buendia. His work rate off the ball is equally impressive and he constantly closes down opponents, always leading from the front. There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe his season thus far.
It was also great to hear Farke talk of Jordan Rhodes with such high regard at the Norwich City Fans Social Club Fans’ Forum. He stated that his attitude despite playing a supporting role this season’s has been first class and that he’s always on hand to give Teemu advice with his wealth of Championship experience, and also provides a fantastic example to other fringe players and youngsters coming through.
I actually think, with hindsight, that my fellow fans have picked the best starting XI, the toughest call for me was to decide who to leave out between Trybull, Leitner, Vrancic and Stiepermann as they’ve all done so well.
Originally I went for Vrancic ahead of Stiepermann, but actually, it feels like it’s the right call to leave Stiepermann in the attacking midfielder role.
I would like to shout out to the brave person who opted for a central midfield duo of Leitner and Vrancic, throwing caution to the wind and going all out attack. As lovely as those two would be on the ball together, I can’t help thinking, in reality, we’d need a little more bite.
Who to pick at centre-back was also a challenge, with ironically the pre-season first choice and captain Grant Hanley being the easiest to drop. The other three all have valid claims, but I think the combination of Zimmermann and Klose is just ahead of Zimmermann and Godfrey.
The rest of the team more or less picks itself, although saying that it, would not surprise me to see any player come in and do well; the reason being how well Farke has the squad drilled as to what he expects from each and every position. The effort that takes in training is phenomenal and should not be underestimated but that is how Farke is able to steer his way through the selection headaches of players coming back from injury. It’s great to see and long may it continue.
In reality, of course, it’s not quite as simple as picking the best on paper, or indeed screen, but many other factors come into it, not least who currently has made the position theirs. Kenny McLean is the most recent example of this. I’d consider him third choice behind Leitner and Vrancic on paper, but there’s no way I’d drop him right now and don’t expect Farke to either.
Thanks again for getting involved and I hope you enjoyed taking part as much as I have analysing the results.
One thing is for certain – Farke is in the best place to make these decisions and have full faith that he’ll make the right calls. In Farke we trust!
On The Ball City.
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