When Billy Gilmour signed on loan in July 2021, there was an almost unanimous cry of positivity and optimism from Norwich fans across social media. A Champions League winner had just signed for the club in what seemed to be a serious statement of intent for challenging in the Premier League.
However, his impact on the club has been less than anticipated despite his consistent influential performances at international level for Scotland. Against both the Faroe Islands and Israel in recent World Cup qualifiers, Gilmour was an influential and driving force for two very important wins but ultimately he has, so far, failed to make such an impact under Daniel Farke so far this season.
City have had a far from faultless start to the season, taking just two points from a possible 24, and perhaps having to adapt to a relegation battle and playing for a side who lack possession is where Gilmour is struggling.
When joining the Canaries, he had played for Chelsea in a Champions League winning campaign and played a role in a revolutionised Thomas Tuchel side. The transition from this environment to experiencing life in his first relegation battle was never going to be a simple and seamless move, but the 20-year-old’s recent performances in the Premier League has left some fans doubtful of his ability to exert his influence on the side.
In recent weeks, Farke has switched focus onto shoring up the defence, made obvious by his choice to move from two centre-halves to three. This system somewhat isolates players such as Gilmour as he enjoys playing with more creating freedom and does not naturally fit into a defensive midfielder role as effectively as Mathias Normann has since arriving at the club.
A similar impact can perhaps be seen on record summer signings Milot Rashica and Christos Tzolis, who have both found themselves out of the side since the formation switch. All three were left out of the starting 11 in City’s draw at home to Brighton on Saturday, and this perfectly demonstrates the conflict between team selection and defensive security.
In a recent press conference, Farke claimed: “We are not here to develop players for other clubs”, hinting that despite Gilmour’s obvious talents, the longevity and hopeful survival of City in the Premier League comes first.
Since these comments, rumours have surfaced of Chelsea’s intent to recall Gilmour early from his loan due to his lack of playtime, however there is nothing of real significance to suggest this will happen.. at least not yet.
Perhaps too much too soon is being asked of Gilmour. The 20-year-old midfielder has been thrown into a squad of players who have previously experienced a relegation battle and he has had high expectations placed on him since the day he was signed.
His talent and ability to influence a football match is clear but adapting to his first spell away from Chelsea may just be taking longer than some fans may have hoped or expected.
If those impressive performances at international level are sustained, and with Farke willing to experiment with formation changes, Gilmour could yet be able to get himself back in favour and be able to work his way back into the starting XI.
With a newly reinforced defensive system in place, and the support of more physical midfielders such as Normann, Kenny Mclean and Pierre Lees Melou around him, Gilmour may find himself able to play with more natural creative freedom going forward.
The full impact of Billy Gilmour is yet to be seen in a City shirt, but as he continues to adapt and settle to life under Farke at Norwich, his clear ability will most likely show.