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“Norwich City’s Arsenal Connection: Can Ben Knapper Secure a 28-Year-Old as the Ideal Wagner Replacement? A Closer Look”

Knapper is expected to become City's next sports director, and his first significant move might be to hire a highly regarded young coach.

Stuart Webber, Norwich City’s sports director, will step down in the coming weeks, leaving a crucial position open.

Webber joined Carrow Road in 2017 after leaving Huddersfield Town, where he set the groundwork for the Terriers to become a Premier League team for the first time, and also helped the Canaries return to the top flight.

Fans criticised Webber in the form of demonstrations following the club’s relegation from the top division in 2022, and it was reported this summer that the 39-year-old will quit his job in the near future, having previously given his notice months before.

The Scotsman still oversaw Norwich’s summer activity, but his replacement will arrive at the end of November in the form of Ben Knapper, who will work alongside Webber in a handover period before taking the reins himself.

Who is Ben Knapper, Norwich’s new sporting director?

Knapper, who is 36 years of age, will join from Arsenal, where he is currently their loans and pathways manager after previously being an analyst in his 13 years with the Gunners, and it will certainly be a baptism of fire when he enters the picture at Carrow Road.

One of his first big moves could be to appoint a new head coach for the first-team, with David Wagner’s tenure going incredibly wrong in recent weeks.

Wagner was a Webber hire back in January, having brought him in at Huddersfield just over seven years prior, and despite some promising early results as City boss, things soon went downhill and the Norfolk outfit ended the 2022-23 season in 13th position in the Championship, despite being one of the favourites to win promotion.

The German didn’t have a significant budget to work with over the summer, and once again after a positive start, results have started to nose-dive, with five matches on the spin without a win seeing Norwich drop all the way down to 17th position in the standings.

 

Championship Table (As it stands October 31st)

 

Team

 

P

 

GD

 

Pts

 

17

 

Norwich City

 

14

 

-2

 

17

 

18

 

Millwall

 

14

 

-3

 

17

 

19

 

Plymouth Argyle

 

14

 

1

 

15

 

20

 

Coventry City

 

13

 

1

 

15

 

21

 

Huddersfield Town

 

14

 

-13

 

14

 

22

 

Rotherham United

 

13

 

-12

 

9

 

23

 

QPR

 

14

 

-16

 

8

 

24

 

Sheffield Wednesday

 

14

 

-15

 

6

There’s every chance that Knapper will want to put his own stamp on things when he arrives, and if results keep on trending downwards in the next week or two then Wagner could realistically be sacked, leaving the current Arsenal man with a big decision to make.

If that is to be the case, then there is one individual that Knapper would be foolish to not consider and that is Carlos Cuesta – Mikel Arteta’s current assistant and someone that Norwich’s new sporting director will know very well.

Who is Carlos Cuesta?

Cuesta is probably not known to the average football fan, but at the age of 28 he is well and truly making himself in the world of coaching.

The Spaniard did not have a playing career and at the age of just 18 he decided to start studying football management, and he would soon become the assistant manager of Atletico Madrid’s under-17s team in 2014.

His talents were not going unnoticed and in 2018 he made the jump to Juventus, becoming assistant of the Italian giants’ under-17’s for two years.

Mikel Arteta eventually came calling though and in 2020, Cuesta made the move to England to become his assistant at Arsenal after the Gunners decided to gamble on their former midfielder as manager.

Cuesta’s three years in North London have gone pretty well so far and at times he has been described as one of the club’s secret weapons – at some point though like Arteta did, he will fancy himself to branch out on his own.

The perfect opportunity could come up in the form of Norwich, as there is bound to be a vacancy if results continue to go the way they are doing, and Knapper’s arrival there in the near future could see him approached.

As a young coach with the influence of Arteta in him, Norwich would likely try to play stylish football under Cuesta, and even though he’s only 28 years of age, there should be no qualms in giving someone like him the opportunity to start his managerial career.

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