“I pulled his shirt a little bit. Just a little bit. It happened,” admitted Leroy Fer following Norwich City’s 1-0 win over Stoke City in September. The Dutchman, a summer arrival at Carrow Road, had hauled Potters frontman Kenwyne Jones to the ground with Stoke understandably aggrieved that a penalty wasn’t given following the coming together in the box.
As a result, the midfielder won a number of admirers for his honesty, even if his words were perhaps the equivalent of kicking a man while he’s down. Since signing for Norwich, Fer has been held in high regard by the supporters following a series of assured displays in the heart of the midfield.
Missing only the season opener for his new club, the 23-year-old has been a first team regular in the Canaries midfield since, playing every Premier League minute after making his debut against Hull City. Such have been Fer’s performances in the middle of the park that his average WhoScored rating of 7.19 is only bettered by Ryan Bennett (7.26), although the centre-back has made just the 3 league appearances this term compared to Fer’s 10.
With Alexander Tettey ruled out for the foreseeable future as a result of an ankle injury, the youngster’s influence in the team may increase significantly, with his energy and ability to break up play set to be utilised to its full potential, exhibited in his WhoScored strength of ‘tackling’. Fer’s average of 3.4 tackles per game reinforces this statistically calculated characteristic, with that figure the most of every Norwich regular this term.
This shows how effective the Dutchman is at breaking up opposition attacks as he looks to win possession for his team and instigate offensive moves for Norwich. This is reinforced by Fer’s ability to run at the opposition with the ball, with a further WhoScored strength of ‘dribbling’ emphasised by his average of 2.1 successful dribbles per game. That figure is again the most of every first team regular for the Canaries this term, while his overall dribble success stands at an impressive 77.8%.
His ability to drive at the opposition when in possession is part of the reason why Norwich paid FC Twente around £5m to secure his services, £2m less than what Everton were prepared to pay back in January. Judging from his start to life in England, Fer is looking to be better value for money than a number of the summer arrivals in the Premier League with each passing game.
Not only does his approach offer the necessary defensive shield to Norwich’s backline, but he’s also a goal threat from a deep position. The latter facet of his game was encapsulated perfectly by his goal in the 3-1 win over West Ham United last weekend, where Fer controlled a Johan Elmander pass before driving forward with the ball, dodging a challenge from Hammers centre-back James Tomkins and firing past Jussi Jääskeläinen from 18 yards.
Such was his performance in the victory that the midfielder garnered a WhoScored rating of 8.9 and secured the man of the match award in the process. His 7 tackles in the fixture aided in that figure being so high and it’s little wonder that Fer deservedly won the plaudits in the encounter. Pertinently, however, was that both his goal, the number of challenges he made and 2 successful dribbles he completed supported his calculated styles of play from WhoScored of ‘likes to tackle’ and ‘likes to dribble’.
Despite being a part of the Norwich set up for only a short period of time, this all action style means Fer has endeared himself to the fans with ease despite the season being less than 3 months old. The win over West Ham before the international break was justifiably his best of the season so far and the first where he truly exhibited his full potential to the watching Norwich supporters.
With an 85.7% pass success and an average of 1.3 key passes per game, his ability to pick out a teammate is a further asset to his game and there are those that believe him to be a genuine all-round midfielder when taking into consideration his qualities as a player. At such a young age, the likelihood of him improving, should he be able to steer clear of any serious injury, is certainly high and it’s Norwich that will benefit significantly from this.
The Holland international has adjusted to his new surroundings seamlessly and with Tettey sidelined, he will be expected to shoulder the defensive responsibility in the starting XI, while continuing to add an attacking threat in Chris Hughton’s side. Regardless of his age and inexperience in the Premier League, however, he’s tipped to carry this burden with ease and continue to excel in midfield. As the Canaries sit just a point above the bottom 3, Fer will be crucial to their bid to pull away from the relegation zone before the year is out, especially with a number of winnable fixtures over the coming weeks.Published 19 Nov 2013, 19:45 IST