Stuart Webber has announced his signing of a new rolling contract with City, ensuring he’ll stay at the club beyond his original 2022 exit point.
This means that, although the Canaries are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle, Webber’s in-tray continues to pile up and his mid-term planning for the club’s future goes on. So, what are the tasks now facing City’s sporting director?
A strong January transfer window
Predictably, rumours have already begun to swirl around potential winter business by Webber. The Welshman has traditionally preferred to operate with the time and care that the summer transfer window allows, but with a new head coach at the helm could be tempted.
Webber stated his belief in the current squad when quizzed on the matter last week, but didn’t close the door on any improvements. “I think we’ve got a well-balanced squad,” he said, “a talented squad. Of course, if we get to January and there’s something we desperately need to do and we need to be creative on that, then we’ll do it.
“But we need to remember that we spent a lot of money in the summer, we’re not sat there with incredible amounts in the bank to go and sign a £20million striker or whatever.
“First of all, it’s about believing in the group that we’ve got because we do and we believe there’s much more to come. Then, like every transfer window, we’ll reassess it and see where we are, so it’s probably a question for eight weeks (now seven) down the line.”
Smith does have a history of bringing former players to new clubs, as he did when signing ex-Brentford players Jota, Ezri Konsa and Ollie Watkins for Aston Villa. Links have already developed with some current Villains, but it remains to be seen whether Webber will be keen on a raid of the West Midlands club.
Addressing Todd Cantwell’s future
One man that’s greatly benefitted from Smith’s arrival is Todd Cantwell. After being frozen out during Daniel Farke’s final throes, the 23-year-old was immediately included in the 50-year-old’s XI, but failed to impress in a difficult opening 45 minutes against Southampton.
While City fans are largely elated at Cantwell’s return to the team and the potential attached for solving the Canaries’ creative problems, Webber’s task has become a great deal more complex as a result.
Had the situation got much worse prior to Smith’s arrival, the task could’ve been to extract maximum value for a player who looked unlikely to feature again- a skilled but fairly straightforward job. Now, Webber must weigh-up the options at his disposal.
Having hired a coach who’s very much a fan of the England under-21 international, the chances of City wanting to retain him have surely increased, but whether he’ll want to is another matter for Webber to address.
It’s not an urgent matter in the sporting director’s eyes- he recently said that “we don’t see it as a contract situation”- but it looks likely to be before long.
Committing to a strategy for 2022/23
If Norwich are relegated the short-term strategy is clear: bouncing back as quickly as possible. However, City are not planning on getting relegated.
Months before survival is either achieved or slips away, Webber must and will decide how to approach things if Premier League football remains at Carrow Road for the first time in nine years.
Do they gamble on improvement, and spend big once again in the hope of progression to mid-table, or do they simply attempt to consolidate their top-flight status by hook or by crook?
A recent example of a club that attempted the former is a certain Aston Villa, whose manager at the time has been the subject of a lot of attention in Norfolk in recent weeks. If Smith can progress the Canaries in the same way he progressed his boyhood club then a similar attempt is surely on the cards.
The choice is Webber’s to make.
Deciding whether to retain Kabak, Normann and Rupp
There are technically seven current City players whose contracts run out next summer: Cantwell, Billy Gilmour, Ozan Kabak, Mathias Normann, Teemu Pukki, Lukas Rupp and Brandon Williams.
Discussions over whether Cantwell and Pukki’s one-year options will be taken up would be elementary, while the futures of Gilmour and Williams are very likely to be out of Webber’s hands.
That leaves a decision to be made on the futures of Kabak, Normann and Rupp. In the case of Normann it seems clear at this stage that he’ll be wanted at Carrow Road for the 2022/23 season, although financial over-stretching the like of which has not been seen before in NR1 would be needed to attain the Norwegian in the Championship.
In the cases of Kabak and Rupp, the best evidence of which side Webber could end up on came last weekend, when both were peculiar quirks in Smith’s selection. Kabak was omitted from the matchday squad entirely, while Rupp made a surprise appearance.
It had been assumed by many that Farke’s departure would spell doom for his trusted number 7, but Smith relied upon Rupp to shore-up the midfield as City saw out an impressive victory. Kabak, on the other hand, could face an uphill struggle after being beaten to a place on the bench by 19-year-old Andrew Omobamidele.
The ultimate decision will rest with a very busy Mr. Webber.