Now all of the Christmas festivities are over (I hope you all enjoyed yourselves) it’s time to look at January, not just for the New Year but more importantly the January transfer window.
I personally am the believer that City are not too far away in terms of picking up points more regularly in this division and with a few shrewd additions could find themselves above the dreaded dotted line come May.
Below are a few positions and players who, in my opinion, could help with City’s plight. Some will no doubt have other admirers and may cost too much in January but regardless of my views hopefully we do strengthen enough in January to give us fans a boost to see that the club is serious about staying in the division.
The centre-back role this season seems to have been cursed for City, with each of the four senior players all having a spell on the sidelines.
I put this position forward as one to be strengthened because, firstly, even though he is scheduled to return in March, Timm Klose is, in my opinion, not going to be able to perform at a Premier League level when he returns from the injury that has ruled him out since the Carabao Cup loss to Crawley.
Secondly, Ben Godfrey is out until February and, again, relying on him as soon as he is back is risky.
Thirdly, I feel we lack pace in that area without Godfrey and an addition could potentially help City change formation to three-at-the-back which, as Wolves and Sheffield United have shown, helps you play good football without being horrifically open – which Norwich have at times have been this season.
Ben Gibson from Burnley would be my first option. Gibson has never really been in favour at Turf Moor since signing for an equalling transfer record fee of £15 million pounds from Middlesbrough in August 2018. To be fair to Gibson, he has tough rivalry at The Clarets with Ben Mee and England international James Tarkowski to displace. Being only 26, good in the air, quick enough across the ground and with a left foot to offer more natural balance to the backline, I feel Gibson would be a fantastic option.
As mentioned, the slight issue with Gibson is that he’s barely featured this season (once in the league and once in the Carabao Cup) but Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke have shown they like trying to get a player back on track, with the likes of Tom Trbull and Christoph Zimmermann being plucked from obscurity and now playing a key roll in a Premier League season.
Gibson also has Premier League experience, playing every game for Middlesbrough in the 2016/17 season and also captained his home team club, so would be a big voice on the pitch and in the changing room.
We know City won’t be spending £15 million on any player but I feel like a loan move here would work for all parties as the player would get game time, Burnley would get a higher valuation of the player and Norwich would only benefit if the player could recapture the form which saw him receive an England call up in March 2017.
Another option at centre back would be Swansea’s Mike van der Hoorn. At 27, van der Hoorn is at the perfect age of having experience yet still having plenty of years ahead of him in his career. The Dutchman has played in all but two of Swansea’s Championship games this season, which have been because of a slight knee injury. Over the years the Swans have built up a reputation of passing football and passing from the back and van der Hoorn fits that role perfectly with his pass percentage at 84% this season.
The former Dutch under-21 International would straight away suit City’s style of play and at 6ft 2in and a robust frame, would be more than suitable enough for the physicality of the league. He has also played two seasons in the Premier League, so would be able to make the step up in level from the Championship.
Another bonus with the Dutchman is that he out of contract at the end of the season, meaning the January transfer window will be the last opportunity for Swansea to make any money on the big defender, meaning City could land themselves with a bargain.
With Patrick Roberts not getting a chance this season, I would be surprised if Norwich and Manchester City don’t come to an agreement over terminating his loan deal. As well as this potential departure I do feel City could do with a similar Onel Hernandez type winger with pace and trickery to compliment the likes of Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell.
Norwich have been linked Bilal Basacikoglu, a quick winger who is currently a free agent after his contract with his Kayserispor was cancelled early with the club struggling with financial problems. He joined the Turkish club in 2018 and registered three goals and four assist in 37 games. With the winger being a free transfer, he would be little risk to City and could be a good alternative.
A couple of players I’m a big fan of are Hull City’s Jarrod Bowen and Bristol City’s Niclas Eliasson. Bowen is Hull’s top goalscorer this season with 16 goals in all competitions and is out of contract at the end of the season but unfortunately for Norwich, clubs with more money like Aston Villa and Newcastle are prime position to battle it out for his signature.
Eliasson, for me, is a fantastic winger who has pace to burn, can use both feet equally well and can deliver a fantastic cross. In 21 appearances this season, the Swede has two goals and ten assists, and of those 21 appearances, just eight have been starts. He has been involved in nine goals in his last 11 appearances, so is really starting to show just how good he is.
The reason why Robins’ head coach, Lee Johnson doesn’t start the player is because of his defensive work rate, which would be key under Farke. However with those stats and watching how Eliasson makes fans move to the edge of their seat every time he has the ball, and the fact there aren’t a host of clubs after him makes me think he would be another unpredictable yet exciting asset to have.
Teemu Pukki is the only Norwich player to have started every game this season. The ‘goat’ has performed brilliantly for a team who haven’t given him quite as many opportunities as last season. I do feel though if City are chasing a game we need a bit more than Dennis Srbeny for a real goal threat.
Asking a player to join to play second fiddle to Pukki would be tricky but here are a couple of options who could work.
Karlan Grant from Huddersfield would be my first pick. The 22-year-old forward joined the Terriers from Charlton Athletic last January while they were still in the Premier League. In a very poor Town side, Grant scored four goals in 13 games and has continued his form this season, even with Huddersfield in a relegation battle, with 12 goals.
He can play up front but does prefer playing from the left where he can drift in and shoot, so would mean he and Pukki could play in the same team and, again, would offer City a real goal threat in the fight for survival this season and whatever division they end up in next season.
With his team being in a relegation dogfight it wouldn’t be the easiest signing in the world but, again, could be one which shows fans just how determined the club are to stay in the top flight.
I would like to mention Ollie Watkins from Brentford who could play across the wing or up front but, similar to Bowen, is going to cost money Norwich simply don’t have, so I’m going with my most controversial pick as my last one – Jordan Rhodes. The man loves the club and was a fantastic influence on the club last season and made an impact with nine goals in all competitions.
I think Rhodes would have more of an impact than Srbeny and Drmic, who will take time to recover from his injury. This would be a difficult deal to do in January as Gary Monk has started using Rhodes more now, but I would be very surprised if he didn’t want to come back to Norfolk.
I imagine the recruitment team are looking across Europe extensively to find the next Pukki and Buendia but it’s been fun looking at a few players who could provide a spark for the rest of the season.
What we can all agree on is that, hopefully, the club does bring in the additions that are needed and they can have as quick an impact as possible!