When I sat down to write this I thought to myself, well this should be really easy, we’ve had such an amazing season. But then I started thinking about it, and realised it’s possibly the most difficult season to rate the players on.
When you look back at our opening game, it was a very different line-up. We had the senior centre back pairing of Grant Hanley and Timm Klose and fullbacks of Ben Marshall and James Husband. Teemu Pukki was also playing as an attacking midfield option with Jordan Rhodes as the lone striker.
We struggled for form with moments of brilliance interlaced with moments of horror.
It’s clear we were struggling to find the right balance, the right back role, in particular, seeing Marshall, Ivo Pinto, Louis Thomson and Felix Passlack all having a go. Pinto even gave left-back a go.
Then came the Leeds game. They destroyed us with Hanley and Pinto suffering the most. It would prove a telling afternoon for both of those players.
That game would prove a turning point in our season. I must confess, for the first time, I turned to my dad after and said, “this isn’t working is it?”. I’d actually been pretty positive before that and could see huge changes going forwards and having players who had far better movement and work rate, but at the back, we looked shambolic and lightweight.
The next game filled me with dread at the time – away to Premier League Cardiff in the League Cup. it saw Max Aarons come into the team and Ben Godfrey and Christoph Zimmermann come into centre-back roles. As we now know we were excellent and deservedly won 3-1.
The next league game was against our friends down the road and saw Aarons stay in the team, but at right back rather than left back. It was the beginning Jamal Lewis/Aarons full-back pairing that would be one of the key factors of our success. We maintained the senior centre backs and Rhodes up front.
It wasn’t until the next game against Middlesbrough where we started to see what would become a winning formula. Zimmermann came in for Hanley to give a back line of Aarons Zimmermann, Klose, and Lewis, Mo Leitner was getting his fitness and beginning to run the team, AlexTettey was proving an able ball winner alongside him. The attacking midfield three became Emi Buendia, Marco Stiepermann and Onel Hernandez and Pukki moved to the lone striker role.
We never looked back.
Something I was also struck by was how many times players came in for injured teammates and really staked their claim, but how those being left out didn’t react badly but played their part. Farke speaks highly of the likes of Hanley and Rhodes for providing crucial contributions without playing as much as they’d like, continually helping those playing ahead of them. Remarkable.
In addition to Leitner and Tettey, we had Tom Trybull, Mario Vrancic and Kenny McLean all vying for places in central midfield. I don’t recall a squad having five such strong options for these roles. I also don’t remember a squad with so many promising young players – it was a joy to behold, possibly the best season I have ever witnessed as a Norwich fan and most certainly the best football.
So here we go, without further ado, here are my player ratings in the order displayed on the club’s official website:
Tim Krul: 8 – Tim had a slow start to his Norwich career and plenty questioned him. It was obvious to me that he was suffering from a lack of first-team football for the previous two seasons. By the end though he had proved to be a vital member of the team, both on and off the pitch, a true leader driving on the young back four in front of him.
Michael McGovern, Aston Oxborough and John McKraken: N/A – I don’t think any of these guys played enough to be given a rating. I was fairly surprised McGovern got a new contract as was expecting another sweeper style keeper to come in, but I’d suggest that speaks volumes for his professionalism, personality and what he brings to the squad as a whole.
Ivo Pinto: 5 – a difficult season for Ivo. It’s an odd one as with Farke’s system relying on attacking full backs with decent technique you’d have thought Ivo would have fit right in, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t work. It was a disappointing end to his City career but he leaves with nothing but love and affection from fans. Good luck Ivo and thanks for the Pitch War Yellow Army posts!
Christoph Zimmermann: 10 – I’ve never given a player a ten before, but it’s easy to do so for Christoph. He is the full package on and off the pitch. On it he’s a colossus, towering above opponents and dominating them physically in duals, often with cute play as well as shows of strength and last-ditch throw your body on the line type blocks and challenges. Off of it he’s possibly the most humble and appreciative footballer I’ve ever spoken to. I sat on the same table as his parents at the end of season dinner and told them how proud they should be of their son. His dad, also a big fella, nearly snapped my spine with a hug at the end of the night – lovely people. It’s with good reason there’s now a Zimmermann Appreciation Society!
Jamal Lewis: 9 – I think the best part of Jamal’s season was his consistency. He managed to maintain a high level of performance throughout the season, something you don’t often see with younger players. He has made the left-back role his – a brilliant season.
Timm Klose: 8 – Timm is great both on and off the switch and it’s great to hear he’s on the verge of signing a new contract. He couldn’t get back in the team after injury due to the form of ben Godfrey, but played a huge part in our amazing season on the pitch and has helped guide his younger colleagues off of it too. He was superb last time we were in the Premier League so it will be great to have around this time too. I also love the way he interacts with the crowd while warming up. Top fella!
Felix Passlack: 6 – I was really excited to get hold of such a highly rated young player, but as with many foreign players over the years, the English leagues can take a while to adjust to. He never really got the chance due to how well both Jamal and Max played.
Philip Heise: N/A – Bought as back-up for Jamal Lewis due to James Husband going out on loan and not working out I suspect, or with next season in mind, but was never needed due to how well Jamal played and due to the homegrown rule. By all accounts a decent player.
Grant Hanley: 6 – Grant was picked as captain at the beginning of the season, which most fans were pleased with. I’ve always questioned his ability on the ball for a team of Farke’s style, but his stature, leadership and experience made him a solid choice. Unfortunately, for Grant, both seasons have seen us improve once he’s left the team and Zimmermann has come in. There was no way he could get back in. Farke and Webber have both been rich in their praise of Grant off the pitch and it’s clear to see he is a leader of the group. I’d question whether he’d be happy next season being fourth choice centre back, but what a great option to have.
Max Aarons: 10 – Max has been simply sensational this season, both in terms of attacking and defending. He looks like a seasoned pro, not a player in his first senior season. His quality is there for all to see which is why teams like Spurs are sniffing around. He’s made the right-back position his own and whilst I’ve no doubt he will move on and play at the very top of the game domestically and internationally, sticking with us next season for first team football suits both him and the club.
James Husband: 3 – Sadly James never looked right at City, he fit the bill as a player who had a point to prove, alas, he’s also proof that they can’t all work out.
Sean Raggett: N/A – Victim of a woeful pre-season where his lack of technique sealed his future, or lack of, I suspect with us.
Marcel Franke: N/A – The fact the club website only has a picture of him in last season’s shirt speaks volumes. He’s recently said he wants to come back and fight for his place. Stranger things have happened, but I’d be surprised to say the least.
Ben Godfrey: 9 – An outstanding season for Ben. He’s officially listed as a midfielder on our website, but as Farke has identified, centre back is his best position and I suspect due to his combination of pace, strength and technique he’ll be another one who’ll play at the top of the game. Once he came in he grabbed his opportunity and took it. He often drove the team forward coming into midfield with great passing towards the end of the season and scored a few too, including one absolute belter. I think Vincent Kompany may have been taking notes.
Mario Vrancic: 9 – What can you say about Super Mario. A more cultured midfielder outside the Premier League you will not find. Calm and collected on the ball, incredible technique, an eye for goal and has added some grit and determination from last season too. It’s easy to see why Klopp rates him from their time together. His free kicks are excellent too. Mario is another one who when his chance came he took it, going on to win player of the Month for the Championship – we really are blessed with some superb midfielders.
Mo Leitner: 9 – Full disclosure, I love Mo! I’ve rarely seen a better midfielder with the ability to completely run a game. We’re lucky to have him at City. For the first part of the season, Mo did exactly that and ran our team. It was only injury and then the superb form of Vrancic and then McLean which stopped him getting back in. His quality is there for all to see and I think he’s suited to the Premier League. He’s broken records this season for distance covered by a City player during a game, he really does hunt the ball out and always want it and usually has the quality to make the right choices on the ball too. A real asset.
Emi Buendia: 10 – A few seasons back we were all worried about trying to replace Wes Hoolahan. We needn’t have worried. First, we had Maddison and now Buendia, I’d argue both better at their respective ages than Wes was. Emi attempted the most amount of tackles of any player in the Championship last season and that’s coming from our most creative player. That is nothing short of remarkable. The fact we didn’t manage to win a game without him speaks volumes. His flick and subsequent goal against Millwall is the best thing I’ve ever seen at Carrow Road. He has everything and I can’t wait to see his naturally gifted football brain ply its trade in the Premier League.
Todd Cantwell: 7 – Personally, I think Todd did OK this season. If anything he needs a little more self-confidence. Some of the abuse aimed at him was nothing short of ludicrous and did nothing to help him or the team. In the games he came in for Buendia he outperformed several of his peers but was guilty of basically not being Emi. Keep believing Todd. Next season may see a loan to the Championship or Germany depending on signings, either way, give the lad a break!
Marco Stiepermann: 9 – Marco the crab/salmon cross that was born to score goals. He had a great season. His link-up play with Pukki was crucial as was his physical presence both in terms of winning the relatively few high balls we played, but also was central in turning over play and winning the ball back. His form did dip slightly towards the end of the season, but he never stopped trying and still chipped in with important goals. When you think back to him playing at left-back in his first season it makes this all even more remarkable.
Tom Trybull: 9 – Super Tommy Trybull (Treebull, Tribble), call him what you will, on his day, the best ball-winning midfielder I’ve seen play for us – see Leeds away for a prime example. He was everywhere, Leeds just couldn’t get past him. He’s also pretty decent on the ball and made the defensive central midfield role his own for the second half of the season. In a team that commits its full backs so high up the pitch, the CDM role is crucial and Tom was superb. I suspect Farke may want another option in there with both Tettey and Thompson being prone to injury.
Kenny McLean: 8 – The new self-titled Mayor of Norwich. Another great example of a player biding his time and taking his chance when he came in. Kenny had a very decent pre-season and much of the talk was about him but was then hampered by injury. Once he got into the team he scored some crucial goals in the final third of the season and performed brilliantly. His versatility handy too as he can play in the two CM roles or in the three AM roles. He also knows how to celebrate and has written himself into City folklore for future seasons for sure.
Onel Hernandez: 8 – Onel’s decision making still leads a lot to be desired at times, but he’s a character and full of explosive pace. I mean Argos, really? On a serious note, his centre of gravity is incredible and he leaves me feeling dizzy sometimes with the number of twists and turns he does, I’m not convinced he knows what he’s about to do a lot of the time, but then in that case nor can defenders! Farke has improved his end product no end and he scored and set up his fair share of goals. A great season and a very funny lad.
Alex Tettey: 7 – Alex started the season well alongside Leitner, but then his form began to dip. After that injury again stopped him from playing the whole season and Trybul stopped him from getting back into the team. Farke also turned to Vrancic at the end of the season when Trybull was injured. He definitely played his part though and his happy face always brightens my day. I’d like to see him stay next season, but suspect that may be one position where Farke and Webber want to strengthen for somebody with better technique and who is, dare I say it, a little younger.
Louis Thompson: 6 – Another season frustrated by injury for Louis, I feel sorry for the lad. I’m not sure he’ll ever get to play the run of games he needs to get back to his best here. There’s definitely a player in there and I’d say CDM is his best position rather than right back, but I can’t help feeling he’ll have to look elsewhere next season. Maybe a Championship loan would help him get back to match fitness.
Ben Marshall: 4 – A similar story to Husband in some ways, but Ben started the season at right-back and then switched to attacking wide midfield. It didn’t work in either position which ended up in him being loaned out. I can’t see a future for him here.
Matt Jarivs: N/A – The most injury prone player I’ve witnessed and I’ve seen a few. Always seems to be in the gym and looks in good shape, but as soon as he has to run, jump or twist something breaks. Harder for him than anybody else I’m sure, but a parting of the ways coming. I hope he has better luck in the future, although that would also be frustrating for us.
Steven Naismith: N/A – Possibly our worst signing ever all things considered! I was so excited when we signed him and even thought that once we got relegated he’d smash the Championship. In reality, we got a player that never wanted to leave Everton and saw his career slump. It’s really sad all round, but a parting of the ways this summer will end it all.
Yanic Wildschut: N/A – Another signing from the old regime that simply didn’t work out. Bags of pace, but never had the technical ability to fit into Farke’s plans. Another parting of the ways coming.
Jordan Rhodes: 8 – Jordan had a great season and at the Norwich City Fans’ Forum, Farke described him as the most unique player he has come across due to his amazing attitude despite not playing and how much he helped his fellow squad members with his extensive knowledge of playing in the Championship. He also developed a great relationship with the fans and chipped in with some crucial goals, the one at West Brom springs to mind. I’d be happy for him to be signed up on a full-time basis, but suspect we’ll look elsewhere for back-up to Pukki.
Teemu Pukki: 10 – Wow. What a season for Teemu. I knew virtually nothing about him before the season started so didn’t know what to expect. It’s fair to say that those expectations were exceeded. Simply put the best season of all-round play as a striker that I’ve ever witnessed. The work rate, the assists, the movement and the goals. Incredible. More than once he sprinted to win the ball back at right back. I described him as a cool as a cucumber on the Pinkun Show and got ribbed for it by some mates, but it’s true. He is the perfect striker for Farke’s system. I hope he gets a crack at the Premier League, but we definitely need more options.
Carlton Morris: N/A – Carlton didn’t play enough to warrant a rating, but he definitely played his part off the pitch. He’s been dubbed the funniest man alive by one member of our squad on Instagram and if you follow on there it’s clear he’s a practical joker and plays the part of what I’d like to call chief morale officer! I suspect he’ll be out on loan next season, hopefully to the Championship, I’d like to see him do well.
Dennis Srbeny: 6 – Dennis gets quite a lot of stick form some “fans”, but I think he’s done his job fine when he’s been needed, which hasn’t been often. I’m not sure what the future holds for him, but it may be a backup squad member, if he’s happy with that then so am I.
Nelson Oliveira: N/A – Dear old Nelson. A great footballer, but a flawed personality. I suspect if he was able to stick to Farke’s instructions and had Teemu’s team-player mentality that he’d have led the line for us. As it was, despite his obvious talent, the other side of him let him down and I can’t seen anything other than him moving on.
So that’s that – the squad of 2018/19 rated! What a truly remarkable season that will live long in the memory.
I sincerely hope the majority of this squad get a crack at the Premier League. Most of them are good enough. I suspect we’ll look at adding four-six names to the squad, perhaps in the shape of a goalkeeper, right back, central defensive midfielder, wide attacking midfielder and a striker.
I’ll sign off by saying a sincere thank you to all of the players, support staff, executive committee and board members. Well done everybody. It was remarkable. Thank you