There are plenty of theories going around as to why City are struggling, all of which have varying levels of validity.
So let me add one more to the mix – Teemu Pukki.
Now before the pitchforks and torches are lifted countywide, let me explain further.
I’m not for a second saying that Teemu hasn’t been pulling his weight. Like everyone else, he was my player-of-the-season last season by a country mile and the only one who consistently looked like a Premier League player.
He works hard, he presses, he tracks back and he’s a fantastic pro – an elite striker who we’re very fortunate to have.
But I do wonder if our reliance on him for goals and our need to create chances that play to his strengths limits us as a team.
Strikers come in all shapes and styles, and how they play determines a lot about how the team has to play.
If you have Iwan Roberts or Jordan Hugill up front you need to have wingers or wing-backs who can get to the byline and sling crosses over for them. If you have a poacher like a Gary Hooper or a Jordan Rhodes it’s about finding ways into the box with the ball on the ground to let them do their thing.
Pukki is an exceptional striker who is all about movement and finishing, and because of the goals he has amassed in previous seasons we base everything on trying to get him that service.
Daniel Farke was often criticised for not having a Plan B but this was partly because we had to find a way to get our world-class striker involved and that limits your options stylistically.
It’s difficult to play the balls in behind that Pukki likes in the Championship when you’re the team everyone is afraid of and defends in depth against. You need the quality of Emi Buendia to create that kind of chance against a low block consistently.
Dean Smith’s lack of stylistic change is a stick to beat him with but I think he suffers from the same conundrum – how do you change how we play without replacing Pukki?
We’re never going to be able to afford to replace him with a player anywhere near his level.
If we were going to, the one chance we had was a year ago when the pre-Premier League transfer window war chest we had was handled by Stuart Webber with all the delicate touch of a trolley dash through an abattoir.
But our only striking option added was Josh Sargent who, with the best will in the world, is not a player you base a team around.
So for now we continue to base everything around Pukki.
While Buendia and Marco Stiepermann were able to build almost telepathic understandings of how to pick out his slanting runs between defenders to create an abundance of chances, we don’t have anyone who has that understanding now.
Milot Rashica running head-down and only interested in creating shooting chances for himself is not going to be that supply line that he needs.
Kieran Dowell and, to a lesser extent, Danil Sinani, have shown the ability to play those passes but need a regular run of games.
Sargent and Onel Hernandez are willing and energetic but lack the quality to find him, and Todd Cantwell and Pukki have never really clicked together.
We have to hope Gabriel Sara and Marcelino Nunez can start to pick the lock as they learn how Pukki likes to be fed.
If they can, it could be happy days again.
I realise, I’m committing the cardinal sin of an opinion piece here, which is to highlight a perceived problem and offer no real solution, but that’s because I struggle to see that solution unless we somehow find another Emi or Stiepi in our new South Americans.
To try and replace Teemu and his goals would be suicidal at this point but, equally, it may be preventing us, and Dean Smith, from refreshing in the way he would like.
Some day we will obviously lose Pukki, either to another team or plain old-age, and we will have to base our play around another striker, or even two, which will be a very sad day because he is our talisman.
But his very success is also a limitation to us in some ways.
I have the tin hat on, give me your worst…
Andrew Delf says
Pukki has suffered from a lack of service for so long now that he has the look of a player who doesn’t believe anymore. He is now short of the pace to play on the shoulder of the last defender. I don’t see him getting the hatful of goals that we have been so reliant on since the arrival of Farkeball.
We need a bully up front now with this current crop of players. In short we need a Grant Holt type not only to bully the opponents but also some of the lack lustre current squad.
Teemu doesn’t deserve to be subjected to the rubbish service he is getting and I for one wouldn’t blame him for considering his options.
Pukki is at the age we normally think of moving players on but we are solely relying on him for our goals and everyone knows it.
Adam Idah has all the qualities to make an excellent striker,if we cannot develop those qualities the outlook is bleak.
Chris S says
Agree entirely, Andy. When Pukki plays, Norwich are only capable of scoring one type of goal. Wonderfully entertaining when it works, but also an absolute liability when the opposition work out how to negate it as we offer no other kind of offensive threat. It is extremely one dimensional and proved suicidally fatal against cannier and higher quality opposition in the big league.
Sadly, without Pukki we do not have a striker who will score 25 goals a season. Nor one who will score 20. Nor 15. And I’m even struggling to come up with an argument for 10!
Where do we go from here?
Cyprus Canary says
I think this is a first class summation of where we are. If Pukki is still as good as many fans believe why are we not fighting off offers for him? His greatest assets are his movement and his pace over a short distance but sadly the march of time has cost him the latter. Stop Pukki and you stop Norwich and that is becoming easier.
Two great questions and the answer to both in equal strength is yes and no.
Pukki is not just a player who scores goals, he is more then capable of being a goalmaker too.
Nunez already looks like a player who can see the spaces balls need to go into and has the ability to deliver them . That will help Pukki score. It will also create other gaps in the attack zone that Cantwell and Sara should be able to exploit.
Should the ball to Pukki be on , Nunez looks to have the ability to play it, or play a different ball to bring in other offensive players. Defences won’t know which way to go.
Agreed, good write. why has another striker been brought in or one groomed, this has been coming for a while each season Pukki is getting older and that little bit slower, the service he gets has diminished almost completely.
The bubble had to burst at some time, you cannot sell on or offload players who knew Pukki on another level and expect him to carry on. Nunez could be an answer, get him and Pukki training together. But we need another younger striker to groom and teach. Sadly Idah will not be that striker, he just hasn’t got that speed, he is more like Iwan than a Bellamy.
Instead of grooming golden boys from Villa get our own lads involved Dickson Peters for one.
Belgrade Canary says
It’s a bit early to predict the demise of Pukki, we are so used to him getting 20+ goals a season on the championship that we forget that he had streaks of not scoring in 4 or 5 games in a row. It was easier to forgive because others were scoring and we were already top of the table. He has hit the bar and forced some good saves, after 5-6 games I will worry.
Glad that we sacked our manager after beating Brentford (at Brentford) last season – the two clubs have never looked back.
That HAS to be the comment of the season!!
What’s really worrying is that SW really couldn’t care less. He STILL has a very well paid and secure job!! .😕
Well it is true. They should have been sacking their German manager and instead we were sacking ours! It ruined the visit to Brentford as people thought we had at last turned a corner. Instead plenty of people were baying for his removal and just look where we are now.
When Pukki plays for Finland, he is way more versatile. His game reading and passing are superb + he was last season 1 of the or even the best pressing striker in the premier league. Why he is so good also in pressing, its again his game reading basically understanding who to press and how. Goals that he scores for Finland are not similar to what he scores for Norwich. He also has pace and he is physically much stronger than people seem to think. He dislikes headers and is not good on those which makes him a striker who you cant play in every kind of system as a single striker. When we play with 2 strikers, it has worked only with a striker type who you can describe as a runner. Those players have certain technical and passing ability even you often wonder how they can be selected and even more how they can be in the starting lineup? You dont have player types like that. Also your midfield lacks abilities to play passing game with him which basically is the result why he must play so 1 dimensional football in Norwich. Its possible that the target type striker might work with him ok, but you dont have that type of player.
You have to also understand that opponents in the premier league already marked him tightly. Now in the championship they concentrate playing against him even more. That makes more room for other players, our national team can use it but obviously Norwich players cant. I seriously question the level of some of the premier league managers. I would not praise highly either mr Farke. Defense was all the time quite bad and everything was based on 2 individuals playing. What I believe that he was good at was his ability to keep players moods good, especially those 2 players. Pukki respected Farke a lot and Farke was able to handle his mood. Its of course depends on personalities but every european country has their own culture which makes things more complicated and also inside countries there are cultural differences. Typically to Teemu he will not start revolution even though he might suffer and it affects his playing. He knows that he can score and make assists, its not a confidence thing with him. Its I dont care mood that he has history and its difficult to see that he would enjoy fully playing football in Norwich anymore.
Whoa, bro , you’ve covered a lot there.
Yes Teemu can be a provider as well as a scorer.
But it’s going to take a jump of faith by the Canary coaches to use him as a second striker.
Like most here I have a great deal of time for Pukki. But without Emi, he has not been the player he was with him. So when Emi was sold, we may well have cut the Pukki supply line by at least 50%.
Get him and Hugill up front in a 4-2-2-2 and take Rashica off. Then Sargent/Idah can come on for Hugill and Rashica can come on for Pukki. Rashica is much better off trying to get in behind and finish than go on his clueless adventures on the wing.
However, with the squad that’s been assembled, 4-3-3 seems the only option when all players are fit. Maybe play 3-5-2 with wingbacks and Andy surging from CB which he likes to do anyway, except now till the edge of the box.
Whatever the system, the players need to bed into it to make it work well and that takes time and hours of playing together. With a bloated squad, injured players, players out of position. All the chopping and changing won’t allow decent patterns of play to develop.
Ideally, a system and patterns of play that are adaptable according to the situation will allow dominance at this level and defensive solidity in the prem like what wingbacks give you.
I agree with the fact that we ha e no one as things are to service Pukki. I have said this to several people that we eithrr have to change our style or we have to change our forward. We are excellent at getting the ball down the flanks and getting in great positions. The player who then has the ball has no one to cross it to as Pukki, for all his quality will never be a targrt man or someone to aim at. In simple terms Pukki cant header it. If we continue to play this style we must play Hugill as he has an aerial presence. If we continue to play Pukki whats the point of playing down the flanks.
I agree that 4-3-3 doesn’t seem to suite Pukki. I would also add though that he looks like
he needs a goal. Twice on Saturday (and I missed the game so can only rely on the highlights) Pukki had through balls played to him. An on song Pukki lets this run across his body and finishes with his left. On both occasions, Pukki took it with the outside of his right boot, cut inside and shot with his right.
Mikey B says
It’s down to lack of forethought on the part of those who recruit for the club. at all levels. We are now in a position where we don’t have a proper goal poacher in the club, let alone in the squad or the team. Hence we have the current obsession with ‘get the ball to Pukki’ when others are often in a better scoring position. Add that to the fact that the GOAT still needs t=10 chances to score 1 and we have long season ahead. But at least they won’t be able to patronise us in the Premier League and we won’t be a yo-yo club.
“It’s difficult to play the balls in behind that Pukki likes in the Championship when you’re the team everyone is afraid of and defends in depth against. You need the quality of Emi Buendia to create that kind of chance against a low block consistently.”
Comments – Norwich have played this system for the last 3-4 years. Teams adjust (even in the Championship) and the lanes that Pukki and Buendia had success in 2 years ago are being shut off so there does need to be a Plan B (I’d offer playing with a second striker -but more than that in a line or two.) 70% possession but only 1-2 real chances isn’t great and that’s what we’ve seen again this season. We really need to draw the opposition up the pitch to create space, not play 35 yards from goal, and while controlling possession, we are still trying to break down 9-10 players which doesn’t seem to be working.
Second, I think Pukki has played a massive amount of football in the last few years and frankly, while he does all of the right things, there is a half-step missing and with two big centre backs, he’s not going to get, or create, that additional bit of space he needs. As such…
Play with two up front. Hugill has the body to pound on defenders and take some of the load off Pukki. He scored in pre-season and mixing up the attack and providing different service to both that plays into their strengths makes sense, plus it gives Pukki more opportunities to be a bit of a fox in the box based on the disruption caused by Hugill in the 18 yard box.