Leroy Fer is the catalyst for solving Norwich City’s midfield dilemma

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Charlie Crowhurst/Getty ImagesNew Norwich arrival Leroy Fer will play a major role in the Canaries' midfield this season.

Chris Hughton's summer spending spree is designed to equip Norwich's squad with a heightened level of cut-throat competition.

Andrew Surman's season-long loan departure to Championship new boys Bournemouth merely underlined the rich diversity at Hughton's disposal in midfield areas; the core part of what now appears to be an abundant playing roster. Hughton's masterstroke last season during City's fallow periods was to settle on a defensively-minded axis in front of his back four that proved robust enough to underpin a club-record Premier League unbeaten run and claim some notable title-chasing scalps.

- Surman seals Cherries loan

Bradley Johnson and Alex Tettey provided priceless ballast, but there were layers of refinement as the campaign evolved with Wes Hoolahan coming back into favour and Jonny Howson showing glimpses of his latent creativity. Hughton has since added Leroy Fer and Nathan Redmond to the equation. Fer possesses the technical ability and the physical attributes to operate right across midfield. Redmond merely embellishes Hughton's abundant options down the flanks. Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass were the men in possession last season when fitness and suspension did not intervene. Elliott Bennett hinted at a growing maturity during the closing stages of a tense, but ultimately fulfilling second consecutive mid-table finish. Bennett was the stand out operator in the priceless home league win over Reading and no less influential against Aston Villa in a losing cause.

Yet Hughton opted to purchase arguably one of England's best homegrown young gems. The 19-year-old Redmond has barely embarked on his professional journey but is already rapidly closing in on 70 senior league appearances. He was one of the few genuine bright sparks from the wreckage of another drab England Under-21 European Championship campaign earlier this summer. More pertinently perhaps for his new employers, Redmond has also shown enough in City's pre-season schedule to suggest he can leave a serious imprint on the club's Premier League fortunes over the next nine months.

Hughton baulked at suggestions he had acquired potential that was still in need of careful cultivation rather than a player who can influence games at a higher grade. The man who gave him his big break at St Andrews was unequivocal on the occasion of the teenager's unveiling earlier this summer -- he had no fears the attacking midfielder could make a similarly destructive transition sooner rather than later.

Distilling so many options into the right midfield formula will be no less a challenging proposition for Hughton as attempting to keep all his men happy, given the strong probability some will have to settle for minor roles. David Fox already appears to be in the same void from where Surman recently departed for the south coast. The cultured passer was a key part of the side during Norwich's rise from the Football League but appears since to have been relegated to the margins.

Fer's final resting place in City's starting line-up is likely to hold the key to Hughton's intentions. Norwich's manager has publicly talked about using this pre-season period to assess whether the Dutchman can be a destructive influence to stop the opposition and offer extra protection to his defenders or a more productive source further forward. The answer will reveal much about the Canaries' ambition for the campaign ahead.


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