Mario Vrancic has found himself with a somewhat niche role as a super-sub in City’s side.
Mario Vrancic is a player who has divided opinion since his arrival from SV Dormstadt 98 in the summer of 2017.
Once the poster boy of Farkeball, Vrancic found his first few months in England tough as he was adjusting to things on and off the pitch, but it didn’t take long for the Bosnian-born midfielder to make his mark at Carrow Road.
The German youth international was an integral member of Daniel Farke’s Class of 2019, despite making just 14 starts in the Canaries title-winning campaign.
Regardless of the paucity of starts, the Bosnian’s impact was crucial, with 10 goals and seven assists in just 1,476 minutes, knocking up an impressive 2.22 points-per-game average.
Now in his fourth season at the club, the 31-year-old is in the final year of his contract, however, he finds himself playing a similar role to the one in the later stages of 2018/19 – the super sub.
When you think of a super sub, your mind instantly casts back to memories of Javier Hernandez, Peter Crouch or Ole Gunnar Solskjær – for the younger readers, yes, that is the now Manchester United manager, who was once nicknamed the baby faced assassin for his crucial impact off the bench in famous United matches.
A ‘super-sub’ is essentially a player who consistently makes a productive impact off the bench, typically in the form of goal contributions.
Seldom is the term applied to a footballer who tightens things up at the back or controls the midfield for the remaining minutes.
This is where Vrancic is unique.
He is different to the aforementioned names, as he isn’t a centre-forward.
The ex-Borussia Dortmund player is a technically proficient midfielder, usually dropping deep to find pockets of space and roaming outside the 18-yard-box.
His lack of starts in recent years can almost certainly be attributed to his dearth of fitness.
Ensuring he is in near-peak physical condition for those crucial moments right at the death is pivotal for the same productivity to occur.
If you ask Vrancic to play the destructive, combative role of Oli Skipp and Lukas Rupp for 90 minutes and then have the composure to score a last-minute free kick, it becomes a lot more challenging.
City would also lose the more technical midfield option from the bench, as you would then be resorting to the more disciplined Kenny McLean or Rupp to be impactful in the later stages of games.
The work of City’s double pivot in Rupp and Skipp allows Norwich a foundation to build from.
The pair have won 17 tackles and made 14 interceptions in Norwich’s opening seven games.
Vrancic made just three interceptions in the whole of last season.
Norwich should have enough attacking talent in the wing-backs, inverted number 10s and contrasting centre-forwards to forge out more goal-scoring opportunities.
If they don’t, then having a super-sub at your disposal is priceless.
There is of course, an opposing argument to suggest that City won’t find themselves in such problematic situations late on in games if the Bosnian was afforded a start.
But you’re then asking a 31-year-old to do things he quite simply, isn’t as adept at.
Vrancic will get starts this season, there is no doubt.
However, for now, Farke has a formula that is working, even if the heart rate says otherwise.
Billy is ½ of NCFC podcast The Revere End. You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook @therevereend and listen to their podcast on Spotify, Apple and Google podcasts.
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