Norwich’s Youthful Defence Holds The Key To Premier League Survival

It isn't all about Teemu Pukki in East Anglia
09:26, 24 Aug 2019

The attention and hype around Norwich’s striker Teemu Pukki has never been greater. His hat-trick against Newcastle last weekend sent him to the top of the goalscoring charts, and those who are Premier League focused sat up at took notice of the Finnish international who scored 29 goals in the Championship last term.

This week on Fantasy Premier League, you can see this for yourselves. More than 900,000 players have brought him into their teams for this weekend’s game against Chelsea, making him the most transferred in player - by far. But for the Canaries, their success this season will rely on much more than the goals of their Finnish ace.

Given that the Canaries conceded more goals than 16th placed Stoke City last season (57), and they have conceded in both of their opening two games in the Premier League, their back four has often been overlooked. However, this young and vibrant defence is pivotal to the way that Daniel Farke likes to play and each individual in that back four boasts incredible quality and potential. 

With captain and leader at the back, Christoph Zimmermann back in training after missing the opening two games of the season the back four that got the East Anglian side promoted will be reunited and provide Daniel Farke’s men with a more stable base to build from. 

The German centre-back came through under Farke with Borussia Dortmund II and has been a remarkable leader of a young side over the past 12 months. His return will see Grant Hanley drop out, the experienced defender faced criticism after his own goal against Liverpool.

Alongside Zimmermann, Ben Godfrey has emerged as one of the finest young English defenders in the country. His loan to League One Shrewsbury in 2017/18 helped them finish third, but he returned to Norwich as a Championship level defender.

His pace, power and strength make him incredibly difficult to beat for any striker running in behind and Farke’s progressive football has allowed his skill on the ball to improve. At 21-years-old, Godfrey plays with the tactical nous of somebody five years his senior and given he has already played in League One, the Championship and the Premier League, the next logical step would be a call-up to England’s U21 squad. A remarkable player with huge potential, he compliments Zimmermann perfectly at the heart of Farke’s defence.

Despite Zimmermann’s leadership and Godfrey’s pace, the full-backs are the shining lights of this back four. Having followed the lead of Borussia Dortmund royalty Jurgen Klopp, Farke’s 4-2-3-1 system relies on both full-backs playing high up the pitch, as auxiliary wingers as Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold do for the Reds. Max Aarons on the right-hand side is simply a brilliant footballer and another whose rise to the first team came as somewhat of a surprise.

He broke into the Norwich first team last season and never looked back, making 41 consecutive appearances once he got into the side, he was simply undroppable. It was this form in a title-winning campaign that drew interest from Crystal Palace this summer, the Eagles were after a replacement for the departed Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Aarons is the perfect fit. However, after spending just £3m on transfers this summer, the club could afford to invest it into these young players, tying them down to long-term contracts.

Aarons signed a five-year deal this summer, Ben Godfrey is contracted until 2023 as is Jamal Lewis. If clubs want to poach these young stars from Carrow Road, they will have to pay through the nose. Lewis on the left-hand side plays a similar role to Aarons, but his height and dribbling ability make him a difficult attacking threat to deal with.

He was rampant against Newcastle, foraging into the opposition’s penalty area and could establish himself as one of the finest left-backs in the league. Things are looking up for Norwich and Stuart Webber, Daniel Farke and the owners have got the club on a steady footing.

Survival in the Premier League must be the priority for the Canaries, but if they achieve that goal, it will not just be thanks to the goals of Pukki.

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