Tonight and a seventh and rather more familiar face was being linked to a switch back to Carrow Road as Gunners starlet Henri Lansbury popped back up on the Norwich radar.
The simple fact that the 20-year-old was nowhere to be seen on Arsenal’s pre-season tour to Malaysia this week helped fuel such speculation – that and the fact that Canary boss Paul Lambert refused to rule out a second loan signing as he formally welcomed Ritchie de Laet, Bradley Johnson and Anthony Pilkington to Norfolk last week.
Seven always appears to have been a special number for the Canary chief. And with six already through the door, making it a magnificent seven for the summer with a return to Norfolk for last season’s successful loan signing would make sense on many a level.
Not least his age – and the fact that as a home-grown talent that is still under 21, he would not impact on the 25-strong senior squad limit set by the Premiership.
And, of course, the fact that he is such a known quantity to all concerned, having made 23 appearances in last season’s Championship promotion triumph.
The ‘risk’ factor, therefore, is minimal. And in the course of his lengthy spell at Carrow Road, the England Under-21 international proved to have all the hunger and desire Lambert would look for in a Canary player – not to mention the kind of ability to deliver the peach of a defence-splitting pass for Grant Holt’s derby heroics.
He also had a bit of an edge to his game; the rashness of youth, on occasion. On others, there was a welcome directness and urgency to his play. In short, he made a big impression on both manager and supporters. As, it appears, did all things Norwich on him.
Speaking ahead of this summer England Under-21 European Championship outing, Lansbury refused to rule out a return to Norfolk – if Gunners boss Arsene Wenger felt the time was not yet ripe for his his elevation into a fully-fledged first team player.
“It’s always great to be promoted into the Premier League,” Lansbury, told The Guardian. “Paul Lambert gave me my chance to do that and I thank him a lot,” he added. “It was great, obviously, getting first-team experience again and playing week in, week out was great. Promotion’s massive and to get that at 20 years of age was great.”
Whether Wenger would ponder a full-time switch for his midfield starlet is another matter. The Sun have already thrown a £2 million valuation into the ring. A season-long loan in the same way that Sir Alex Ferguson has let defender de Laet out to play for a full Premiership campaign is probably the most likely outcome.
Certainly, speaking earlier in the year Lambert thought it would be a job and a half to prise Lansbury out on a permanent basis.
“He’s at a terrific football club, and he’s learning all the time,” Lambert told the League Managers Association magazine in the spring. “I think we’re a long way from being able to ask Arsenal if we can take him permanently. He might have a big future at Arsenal.”
An early move for Lansbury would also enable Lambert to bed each and every new face in squad-wise well before the start of the new season in a month’s time.
Canary fans will gain their first glimpse of the new-look Class of 2011-2012 when the club opens its summer pre-season campaign with the short trip to Gorleston this Saturday. After that Lambert and his senior squad will jet off to Germany for a summer training camp before the going really starts to get serious.
To have got seven new bodies from his ‘most wanted’ list in place in time for all involved to board the plane for the continent next week will be no mean feat, though nothing tends to surprise you any more when it comes to Lambert’s managerial resource.
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