As a disbelieving Norwich public watched their side throw away a two goal lead against an eminently beatable Liverpool side last Saturday afternoon, one man sat quietly at the back of the home dugout soaking up a Premier League encounter for what may well have been the first time. The likelihood is that Timm Klose’s second such experience will be far more hands on, with Tottenham the next visitors to Carrow Road followed by a game of huge significance at Villa Park four days later. But can the imposing Swiss centre-half live up to his billing and plug at least one of the gaping defensive holes which threatens to condemn the Canaries to a second relegation in three seasons?
Klose’s pedigree is certainly impressive, although it would not be unfair to suggest that he has rarely been the first name on the team sheet during his two and a half seasons with Wolfsburg. He was 23 before he escaped from the hardly rarefied climes of the Swiss top flight, although he did then go on to establish himself as a regular starter at Nurnburg. Nevertheless despite having played some part in 14 of the Wolves’ games in the run-up to the winter break, the opportunity to make a substantial profit on an initial investment of six million euros was evidently too big a temptation to resist.
The Swiss international’s arrival has been widely applauded by a fan base who in many cases will have never seen him play for either club or country, and so are presumably for the most part driven by the ‘reassuringly expensive’ tag line first introduced by the makers of Stella Artois some years ago. There is also the simple fact that it must surely mean curtains for Russell Martin’s career as a Premiership centre back, a move which many would have made months ago. Ryan Bennett’s omission last weekend in favour of the club captain was a real head scratcher, yet it would be highly unlikely that Sebastien Bassong would suffer the same fate, leaving Martin with nowhere to go other than a battle for the right back slot with newly signed Portuguese international Ivo Pinto and Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom.
Klose’s signing; along with that of Steven Naismith from the blue half of Merseyside, also lays to rest the nagging doubt that the Norwich board have been unwilling or simply unable to spend more than £5 million on the quality of players who are badly needed to strengthen the squad. However in their defence, it could also be argued that on the only occasion that such a move had been sanctioned prior to this transfer window. The walking disaster that was Ricky van Wolfswinkel was proof enough of the risks of such a sizeable investment on a relatively unknown quantity in Premier League terms.
Regardless of the concerns which may have been aired, the money has duly been spent, and Klose now has to deliver. He will no doubt be assisted by the presence of Alex Tettey over the next few transcendental weeks, as the Norwegian’s untimely stomach bug was indisputably a major factor in the Liverpool defeat. However, there needs also to be some awareness that the centre of defence is not the only area of the back four which has to improve – Pinto’s first 90 minutes in the green and yellow were rather inauspicious, and Robbie Brady was again at fault for an opposition goal. The amount of space afforded to Jordan Henderson deep inside the Norwich area so soon after Wes Hoolihan had made it 3-1 was alarming, and there are other areas of the team which are also misfiring, with Nathan Redmond’s dip in form particularly disturbing.
In an ideal world the new signings would be given time to settle into their new surroundings, although it would seem that Naismith has wasted no time in so doing. However, his swift acclimatisation merely underlines the main difference between the two major Norwich acquisitions in this transfer window; one is a proven Premiership performer, whilst the other has just stepped off the plane. Regardless of this fact, the latter is just going to have to hit the ground running if he is to keep his new team in the promised land; the clock is ticking, and the portents are ominous, with Bournemouth accumulating nine points over the last month and Swansea recording successive wins to leave the Canaries teetering perilously close to the drop zone. With all this in mind, one strongly suspects that Klose’s opportunity to shine will be handed to him sooner rather than later.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Benjamin Grüning