It has been years since Norwich City signed a traditional ball-winning midfielder of calibre and quality, Ollie Skipp, who did fit the bill, was only here on loan and the likes of Ibrahim Amadou, Isaac Hayden, Mathias Normann have all come and gone after failing to provide that defensive shield.
Skip forward to 2025 and Norwich may just have a home-grown, dynamic, ball-winning powerhouse in their midfield in the form of Uriah Djedje. For those who have read my weekly columns, his name is one I have mentioned consistently due to his growing influence on the Under-18s and Under-21s.
The 17-year-old defensive midfielder made his debut for the U21s in the EPL Cup against Wolves last month after performing consistently for the U18s over the last 15 months.
Since Djedje arrived on the U18s scene, he has played as a centre-back, central defensive midfielder and central midfielder, highlighting his versatility. Predominantly though, Uriah has played as a ball-winning midfielder in the CDM role, which most suits his superb physical capabilities.
He has been pushed up as a box-to-box midfielder in recent weeks, which might indicate that Norwich see him as a player who can affect both boxes rather than having a singular responsibility of protecting the back four.
Djedje playing against Tottenham, last weekend. Credit: Tottenham
He has vastly improved his technical game since the start of last season, adding a real consistency to his possession game.
At the start of the 2022-23 season, Djedje was guilty of giving the ball away too cheaply in the middle third but roll the clock forward 15 months and he is now a reliable player on the ball, showing a real willingness to play positively.
And on the subject of his proactiveness in possession, he is good at changing the intensity in possession by accelerating the pace of the game with his forward, low-driven passes – a good example of which came in his U21s debut against Wolves when he won an initial duel and then immediately played a forward pass into Ken Aboh, almost leading to a goalscoring opportunity.
An important element of the game Uriah has had to contend with is being able to receive the ball under pressure and negotiate his way around that. The Norwich U18s place massive responsibility on the deep-lying midfielder to collect the ball and break the opposition press without giving it away, and with Djedje being a stereotypical defensive midfielder with a high expectancy to deliver out of possession rather than with the ball at his feet, it’s been a really useful education for him.
He has had to quickly learn that side of the game, which will stand him in good stead in the longer term.
As mentioned above, Uriah has numerous powerful traits that enable him to win back possession with relative comfort, and at 6ft 2 he has the potential to take this to a new level. He also has a superb engine, enabling him to complete ninety minutes on a regular basis.
Djedje captained the team during pre-season. Credit: @disstown
One of his other main strengths is his ability to win back the ball, and he accomplishes 10+ ball recoveries in most games he plays with the U18s. In fact, he ranks as the top player for this statistic across the U18s and U21s, highlighting his importance to both teams.
Linked to his ability to win back possession, Djedje is a highly aggressive midfielder, encountering many physical duels across ninety minutes. Norwich use Uriah’s aggression to their advantage as they like to allow him to roam from his position to overcome a duel. This was easier when Uriah was playing as a number 8 as there was less responsibility to be disciplined unlike in his normal number 6 position.
His hard-tackling style means he is willing to put himself into any grounded duel, always confident he will win the battle with a slide tackle. With Norwich having various midfielders with ball-carrying and technical profiles, a physical powerhouse like Djedje adds nicely to the balance of the teams.
For a 17-year-old defensive midfielder, he displays high levels of intelligence for a player still learning his craft, and one characteristic that demonstrates his perfectly is his ability to carry the ball from deep into the middle/attacking areas of the pitch. A good example of this came against Chelsea (a) last season when he carried the ball from deep to attack in many scenarios, protecting a 1-0 victory away in London.
Furthermore, he is sensible from a pressing perspective, timing grouped presses successfully in order to win the ball back in high areas, and is clever at using his body effectively in order for the team to win back possession.
It’s clear to observe that Djedje has a tremendous desire to succeed, never settling for average performances. He is a respected member of the dressing room, captaining the U18s team on a handful of occasions this season.
I understand that putting Uriah Djedje in the same bracket as Alex Tettey may sound far-fetched, but with Norwich failing to recruit smartly in that area in the past, going down the academy route could be the best solution.
Investing time in Djedje could be an option for the Canaries as he has the potential to develop his game to an extremely high level. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Uriah Djedje’s name hovering around the first team in the longer-term future.
Watch this space.