Following Alex Tettey’s suspension against Brighton and Hove Albion at the weekend, many are hopeful a certain player is on the cards to make his first league start for the club, following his performance against Leeds United in the League Cup.
He signed two years ago whilst the Canaries were under the management of Neil Adams, and it probably would have been understandable why some may have been obliged to ask “who?” for the most part of those years but now, Louis Thompson has ensured no-one will be asking that question again for much longer.
An impressive performance at Elland Road saw many taking to Twitter to praise the young midfielder, whilst others called for a change-up in the starting XI – this only heightened the praise Thompson had gathered over pre-season, U23 games, Cup games and his two appearances in the Championship.
But if you rewind back to even last season, you would realise the ongoing credit Thompson has brought with him throughout his career, even as a 17-year-old at Swindon Town, where he spent over 10 years developing as a player, alongside his older brother, Nathan.
Given his footballing debut by Paolo Di Canio against Leicester City in the FA Cup, the Thompson brother’s dedication and effort has seen them become favourites among supporters and management.
Even the fiery soul of Di Canio excused Thompson for an unfortunate own goal in an FA Cup defeat against Macclesfield Town in which Di Canio was quoted in saying he’d rather a player run 70 yards to try to defend and make a mistake than a player working for 70 minutes, along with praising his “desire to tackle”. That was just at the start of his career.
Since then, his achievements at Swindon may not have ended in too much silverware but included playing at Wembley, promotion to League One, playing under his brother who was Captain, collecting numerous goals and assists, along with plenty of disappointment.
At just 21 years old, having made his debut at the tender age of 17, he’s just a little more experienced with the same wise screwed on head, and if fans stuck around long enough following City’s defeat against Leeds, they would have seen just that.
Having played the full 90 minutes and extra time, he decided to be the one to step away from the penalty spot after suffering from tired legs. But despite the defeat, he and Alex Pritchard (who Thompson had already played alongside at Swindon) were the ones to applaud the fans who made the journey to Elland Road.
So let’s fast forward to what fans are now learning about this young midfielder who disappeared each season back to his former club and who Norwich fought away the advances of any club planning to take the midfielder on loan.
He’s a defensive midfielder – a like-to-like position of the one occupied by Graham Dorrans and Alex Tettey. It’s his preferred place to play but don’t let that second guess his ability to break up play and attack with surging runs – his rare goals come from that exact movement.
Though it’s where he’s most likely to feature for the Canaries, it doesn’t mean he’s always played there. In fact, his time at Swindon saw a lineup different to the formations Alex Neil opts for. This saw Thompson occupy the central midfield role in a midfield four/five, enabling him to get forward but also support the defence. Statistically, the positions equal themselves out – with Thompson grabbing four goals and two assists in central midfield, whilst defensive midfield saw him score two goals and five assists.
With his brother being a defender, Thompson has seen himself open to versatility on a few occasions, playing across the defence and midfield throughout his career so far. And though maybe he doesn’t score as many as a regular midfielder would when they have such an attacking aspect to their game, Thompson has seen improvement year on year, adding new aspects to his game and is a driving force to creating chances, whilst also supporting the defence.
His judgement of reading the game, along with his ability to be a key player in covering the pitch, quick attacks and carrying to ball forwards will be massive to the Canaries’ game when chances are hard to come by. His goals also replicate similar attacks with these regularly coming from outside the box and drilled across the floor.
So how will Thompson fit into City’s lineup based on his career at Swindon and his few games out for Norwich?
Having experienced only eight minutes playing in the Championship so far against Nottingham Forest and Burton Albion respectively, his performances against Leeds and Everton will undoubtedly put him in good light of coming into the team more often.
In his interview ahead of the Brighton game, Alex Neil told the media that the 21-year-old would be the “natural successor” for Alex Tettey, along with praising his performance in the EFL Cup.
I thought he was fantastic in the [Leeds] game, which is great for Louis and great for us because that’s on a few occasions now that Louis has shown he’s capable of coming in and doing a good job for us.
I think he’ll naturally become probably Alex [Tettey’s] general successor in that type of role, that’s the type of player he is.
I have no fears putting Louis Thompson into the team.
With injuries also striking City’s squad, the absence of Youssouf Mulumbu and now Jonny Howson has already opened up a spot on the bench for Thompson, but with his playing experience in central-midfield, Alex Neil should not fear trying him out in such position either.
However, it becomes increasingly likely Thompson will find himself replacing Alex Tettey in City’s next fixture, as the Norwegian serves his suspension, and with Graham Dorrans also close to a suspension himself, Thompson could be a lot more hopeful to a chance in Championship.
The 5-0 loss at Brighton and Hove Albion could also see Alex Neil opt for a change in the shape of Thompson, with the midfielder remaining on the bench against the Seagulls.
For some, that game shouted Thompson’s name as any chance of a comeback started to drift – maybe City were in need of a player who would break up play with his reliable tackles and his quick attacks forward, which could have seen the likes of Cameron Jerome, Wes Hoolahan, Alex Pritchard and Jacob Murphy get involved in the game more to create chances for the team.
Thompson’s time as a Swindon Town player has also meant the missing link could be fixed from the Brighton game, with the latter of the players (Pritchard and Murphy) both playing for Swindon in the 13/14 season for a season-long and a month-long loan respectively. Though Murphy’s stay was too short to analyse, Thompson played alongside Alex Pritchard on 26 occasions and was there for six of his eight goals for Town, which saw the club finish 8th.
As and when Harry Toffolo, who is currently on loan to Scunthorpe United, joins back up with The Canaries, there will also be a chance to see whether a certain link-up was formed whilst at Thompson’s former club.
He is young, hungry for opportunities and a player who will not give up when the going gets tough. He isn’t a new signing of such but with Alex Neil choosing to involve the 21-year-old in his squad this season, Louis Thompson is definitely feeling like a new signing and it’s no surprise to see so many fans warming to his effort and quality on the pitch.