It’s strange, isn’t it? It seems whenever City have a summer where they’re in a position to splash the cash, the signings usually are uninspiring. Far too many times have we been let down by big-money signings such as Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Steven Naismith.
To me, this summer’s transfer window closely resembled the summer of 2018 more than the summer of 2021, say. The last time the pressure was off, and expectations were low, we signed an Argentine genius and a Championship goal machine who fired us to the Premier League.
After an impressive start and having already had a few drama-filled games akin to that 2018-19 side, we think it’s time to review the new boys and their start to life in NR1.
Ashley Barnes is a belter. He’s different from the rest. I’m sure Stuart Webber and David Wagner couldn’t believe that a player with that much experience became available for a free transfer so quickly, fresh off from becoming a league champion with Vincent Kompany’s free-scoring Burnley last season.
For so long City have missed a player who relishes the rough and tumble and takes the game by the scruff of its neck.
Just like whenever Grant Hanley gets his head down and wins the ball without fail, Barnes’ trademark action of rolling his shorts up signals a long, physical, and often painful slog of an afternoon for defences up and down the country.
It’s been Barnes’ ability as a number 10 which has surprised me, though. His aggressive play style and ability on the ball make for the perfect option to support the likes of Josh Sargent. We knew he was never going to be a direct replacement for Teemu Pukki, but for the system we’re looking to play, he is the ideal fit.
It’s therefore a huge shame that he’ll likely miss at least the next ten games after his ligament injury against Leicester in midweek.
However, for me, Jack Stacey has to be considered the signing of the season so far. It seemed as if Max Aarons wasn’t playing with complete freedom last season (like most of the squad under Dean Smith) and struggled to adapt to the reintroduction of the high-tempo Wagnerball in the latter half of the season.
The fact that Stacey had to replace such a fan favourite (and one of our own), makes the composure he’s shown both on and off the ball remarkable. Having a penchant for roaming forward, Stacey’s eagerness to deliver crosses into the box suits our system perfectly, playing to the strengths of the more physical forwards such as Barnes and Sargent, as well as supporting the wingers during attacks.
We must also highlight the positive contribution Shane Duffy has made to the squad since his arrival. Fans were getting bored of the Hanley/Gibson partnership last season – two similar centre-backs who seemingly cancelled each other out at times.
Duffy’s ability to pick out a long pass every time, as well as his rigid defensive structure, gives Norwich a new dimension at the back we haven’t seen since big Seb Bassong captained the side.
The other obvious stand-out summer signing has been Christian Fassnacht. The Swiss superstar’s physicality and positioning are things we’ve severely lacked in recent years on the flanks. His composure to seemingly not “overdo” anything going forward has only strengthened the overall attack and differs from previous options such as Milot Rashica and Christos Tzolis, who had habits for trying to take on the entirety of the opposition before being shrugged off the ball too easily.
‘Fassy’ has also become Mr Reliable when it comes to scoring in tight games, having netted the fourth in that scintillating 4-4 draw away at Southampton, and at the New York Stadium in the eventual defeat to Rotherham, which gave City a chance to get back into the fixture and a much-needed kick up the backside!
As for our other signings, Danny Batth and Adam Forshaw seem like sensible and astute additions, even if we haven’t seen much of them yet on the Carrow Road turf.
Forshaw comes to the club having won promotion to the Premier League with both Middlesbrough and Leeds and whose experience will be vital to helping the development of young players such as Liam Gibbs.
Danny Batth’s arrival after winning Sunderland’s Player of the Season award last season as the Black Cats reached the playoffs shows his pedigree and ability at Championship level.
And despite all of this, we’re still waiting to see Spanish winger Borja Sainz in yellow and green, having signed him whilst nursing an injury in classic Norwich fashion. Already having played a few minutes for the development side last week, the winger is close to recovery and has been promised a run-out in our upcoming Carabao Cup visit to Fulham next week by David Wagner.
George Long’s arrival as a number 2 makes sense for everyone involved, as he was made surplus to requirements at Millwall, and we were hunting a backup with Championship experience.
Hwang Ui-Jo also hasn’t received much playtime since his deadline day arrival, but with a lack of experience in the English game, he may still be finding his feet.
With all of that being said, however, the treatment table has once again left the squad lacking in quality depth.
The decision to only sign one striker and centre-back on transfer deadline day may be seen as a pivotal moment in our season if we are unable to keep up this form. Andrew Omobamidele’s departure, as well as Grant Hanley’s injury, leaves us with only three credible options at centre-back, which we all know isn’t enough despite Batth’s quality.
With Sargent out until the new year and Barnes not returning until at least November, another striker, say of Kieffer Moore’s stature, would have soothed any injury concerns we may have had.
Instead, we’re reliant on solely the ability of Hwang and Idah for the next two months. It’s now or never for both of them.
It’s no coincidence that Norwich’s summer signings have contributed greatly to our superb start. Let’s just hope they can continue to spur the team on, as the going is beginning to get tough.