Mario Vrancic was signed by Norwich City for an undisclosed fee in the summer of 2017. However, just 18 games into the season, some fans have already belittled his capabilities, whilst youngster James Maddison has sent fans purring. This has left Vrancic under pressure to be a success amongst fans.
Has Maddison now done enough to oust Vrancic from the team, or should Daniel Farke give the Bosnian a second chance to prove himself?
The Curious Case of Mario Vrancic
Firstly, Mario Vrancic fits the bill as a technically gifted player. Last season, Norwich’s ball retention was poor. He, however, looks comfortable on the ball. A congested midfield can be problematic in terms of breaking down. Therefore, he fits Daniel Farke’s philosophy and can keep and move the ball. He also does not possess the sloppiness of Norwich midfielders from the past.
The Canaries have a player who can play a killer pass, with the small chance of unlocking defences in troubled games. For instance, think of the goal he created vs QPR. A brilliant ball into Nelson Oliveria provided a moment of magic within a game which lacked quality. It is tough to understate he is a player who can create magic with a flick of the boot.
Also, the season is are still not at the Christmas period yet and there are improvements in his game. He is demanding the ball more and trying to epitomise Farke’s philosophy of possession-based football, shown through his 81% passing accuracy. He is constantly learning and moving to a new country where football is more physical, he has the skill set to open defences.
However, Vrancic has received a fair amount of criticism, mainly due to a lack of energy. Playing in a similar position to James Maddison, Maddison has improved his game and has supported the defence and grafted. The same cannot be said for Vrancic, though. Lazy has been a word to describe him – this is definitely not justified, however; he lacks the ability to travel back and help defensively.
In addition, he has drifted out of games in a lacklustre fashion. Farke does not only demand a possession-based game but also high pressuring off the ball – Vrancic certainly has not adapted to the latter. To improve and adapt and win back some of the fans may feel he must provide more energy in such a demanding physical league. There will obviously be comparisons to Johnny Howson, in particular, what was evident at Nottingham Forest and Barnsley was a lack of energy and you cannot afford to be lacklustre in this league.
Finally, he is at a disadvantage in terms of physical appearance. Whilst footballers come in all shapes and size, it is vital a player with a bit of strength and steel plays. Maddison, Tom Trybull and Harrison Reed have all shown a bit of grit and strength in the face of adversity. As a result, this has improved their confidence and ability levels.
Whilst Vrancic’s ball retention and pass accuracy is good, this could be because he plays the ball back as he does not like to lose it. If he can acquire more strength there is no doubt he can move forward with the ball and get us playing at a higher tempo, which is a distinctive feature behind the Canaries scoring only 17 goals this season.
Whilst Vrancic has a tendency to become lazy, he can change a game and has the creativity to unlock teams. He must accept, though, that he and his teammates can pick up the tempo in a more advanced role.
Barnsley and Nottingham Forest, in accumulation with other games, have epitomised his low levels of energy and grit in midfield. He is not a deep playing midfielder and lacks the other side of his game quite distinctively.
Wes Hoolahan and himself share numerous characteristics and it would still be concluded that Hoolahan is far more effective in numerous departments.
It is 18 games into the season, so it is no surprise fans become more critical now they have settled into the campaign. To conclude, he has not been good enough and does not offer any more than any other Norwich player in his position.