Just hours after Norwich City’s late Coventry heartbreak Josip Drmic took to social media to affirm that “I am not injured, I am just no longer wanted by the club”.
It spelt a definite and miserable end to the striker’s difficult time as a City player, during which he’s started just seven times and scored three goals.
During Daniel Farke’s reign centre-forward after centre-forward has fallen by the wayside, the likes of Dennis Srbeny, Marley Watkins and even Nelson Oliveira. To put things into context, with Drmic that’s three international strikers who have failed to make their mark and left Carrow Road unceremoniously since the German took over. He demands an awful lot from his strikers, a trait that may have something to do with his own career.
Farke describes himself as “the slowest striker in western Europe” but states he “knew where the goal was” when he played mainly in Germany’s third and fourth tiers. As a known goal scorer his eye on the strikers in his squad is particularly keen.
The demands he places on his squad are known to be tough and, as the previously mentioned players know, none more so than on his forwards.
Many had believed that Drmic was in line for a first Championship appearance when Teemu Pukki was ruled out of Saturday’s game, with the outcast Swiss the only striker at Colney to have appeared for the first team.
Farke subsequently ruled him out of the fixture through a “minor injury”, prompting his response. The 28-year-old’s plight shows just how difficult Marco Stiepermann’s task was on Saturday.
It’s fair to say Stiepermann didn’t light it up but given the current situation there can hardly be a better solution. Farke’s trust of his number 18 in a role he’s never played before for Norwich shows the calibre of player the boss believes he is, and it would be optimistic for any of us to believe we know more than him.
Pukki’s status for Wednesday’s trip to Luton is yet to be revealed, and while we wait it’s looking more likely that Stiepermann fills in again. He now has 90 minutes of Championship experience as a striker and showed when failing to convert Josh Martin’s fantastic through ball that he can at least get in the positions to score. The German has ten goals to his name at this level and will find the net given a few tries from his favourite 20-yard shooting zone, opportunities he may be afforded by the Luton defence.
The Hatters conceded eight shots from between the 25-yard mark and the penalty spot in their 4-0 defeat by Cardiff on Saturday, conceding twice from this area. Stiepermann’s goals against the likes of Blackburn, QPR and Swansea surely mean most Norwich fans would entrust him with these chances given the opportunity.
Luton will be buoyed by a 3-1 cup victory over a City side which looked second-string at the time but was probably preferable to the eleven Farke will be able to field on Wednesday and, with the extra ammunition provided by the return of 1000 of their fans to Kenilworth Road, will be full of energy and desperate for the scalp of the league leaders.
Stiepermann’s hold-up play and pressing will be key in halting this early momentum, and the Canaries will be buoyed by a crucial return of their own.
The return of Emi Buendia.
However difficult the task of a striker under Farke, it’s made a whole lot easier with Buendia behind them. The Argentinian is yet to link up with Stiepermann in the same way he has with Pukki but has experience of linking up with his German teammate as the two creative outlets for the Norwich side.
Examples such as the second goal of the famous Manchester City defeat spring to mind and, even if it’s in slightly different roles, the pair have a history of intricate and effective interplay.
Stiepermann’s struggles have also given a fresh appreciation of our Finnish finisher, a man who’s had the hopes of Norfolk pinned on him for nearly three years now. A vast number of fans (including myself) were quick to write Pukki off during his Premier League dry spell, failing to recognise that he had fulfilled the extremely demanding role of a Farke number 9 and carried the Finland team to the Euros in 18 non-stop months of hard work.
Our number 22 is on form now and will be back to lead the promotion hunt as soon as possible, but until then we must appreciate the extreme demands on an out-of-position Stiepermann, and back an overworked side to the hilt.
It’s perfect timing for a Carrow Road return.