The Premier League is back this weekend after the first round of European group stage fixtures. Five games in, and there have already been several excellent matches, shock results, and standout performers — one of them being Finnish international, Teemu Pukki.
Norwich City signed Pukki in 2018 from the Danish club Brøndby, and he quickly made his mark in the Championship. Scoring 30 goals in 46 appearances, he was named the EFL Championship’s player of the season, as well as Norwich City’s player of the season. His form not only helped Norwich get promoted to the Premier League but enabled them to become champions of the EFL, scoring 32% of the team’s goals.
And although the jump from the Championship to the Premier League can be challenging for players, Pukki continued his fantastic form, having eight-goal involvements in the first five game weeks. Having scored two goals for his country this international break, Pukki is playing some of the best football of his career, and he is currently irreplaceable for Norwich City.
The main asset Pukki brings to Norwich City is goals, goals, and more goals. He scores them, assists them, and creates them. The top scorer in the EFL Championship last year, as well as only being one goal off the top scorer in the Premier League this year, it is no secret that Pukki is Norwich City’s most reliable, and most consistent in terms of goals.
Pukki often plays up top as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation for the Canaries. As a lone striker, he has several strengths that allow him to create multiple chances for himself and his teammates.
As well as being an excellent shooter and dribbler, one of Pukki’s strengths is receiving the ball in the box. When a teammate passes him the ball, he always finds a way to time his run, and shield the ball away from defenders, ensuring that he has the ball in the penalty box.
Pukki has great positioning, and when Norwich are in possession, he’ll often be on the shoulder of the last centre-back, remaining just onside. This is a perfect setup for him to get a through ball into the final third, and try and get a shot in on target or set up another attacking teammate.
Chelsea, as one of the ‘top six’ sides, unsurprisingly play a high line, which makes it easier for Pukki to make runs in behind. It is much harder for players to play this way against low block sides. What makes Pukki such a good player is his versatility. His ability shoot from a distance inside the box makes him a great asset against teams that will attempt to limit Norwich’s forward play.
Not only has Pukki been the main man in terms of goals, but he also is Norwich’s main creative outlet. Having created the most chances for his team so far, he is the Canaries’ leading attacker.
Pukki has averaged three shots on goal per game so far in the Premier League. A shot accuracy of 79% shows that he is very efficient. He maximizes his output in several different ways.
All six of Pukki’s goals this season have come from within the penalty box, and out of the thirty he scored last year, only one came from outside of the penalty box. Pukki insures that his shots have the best chance of going in by taking them from as close to the goal as possible. His heatmap showcases that his preferred position is in and around the penalty box.
It may seem strange that Pukki is able to get so many shots off in the penalty box. He is Norwich’s best and most productive attacker. It would make sense that opposition defenders would pay extra attention to him, and try and limit his time on the ball. This is easier said than done, as Pukki’s strength allows him to be exceptionally good at ground duels. When he receives the ball, defenders will try to nick it off him. However, he is often able to beat them using his physicality.
Out of possession
Pukki is not just all about the goals, and for a recently promoted team like Norwich, who are trying to survive in the Premier League, every single player needs to work hard on both offence and defence. Pukki is an energetic player who is willing to press and win the ball back. He is willing to sacrifice spending some time in the final third to ensure that his team keep clean sheets and concede as little chances and goals as possible.
Sustainable in the Premier League?
The question on everyone’s mind is if Pukki’s form is sustainable in the Premier League. There have been multiple instances of players who perform well in the Championship but are unable to find their footing in the Premier League, and they struggle. However, Norwich fans can rest easy knowing that Pukki’s underlying numbers do not show that he is heavily overperforming or underperforming. While he is outperforming his xG of 1.79, his xA of 1.43, shows he is underperforming in terms of assists. Norwich have played two ‘top six’ sides within their first four games, so it is to be expected that Pukki has spent more time defending and not assisting and creating chances as much as he’d like to. Upcoming games against lower opposition will allow Pukki more freedom in the final third.
While the Canaries are far from a one-man team, Pukki is the focal point of their attack. If Norwich are to avoid relegation, the Pukki party will have to continue all season long; he will need to stay fit for the full season, and he’ll have to keep up his strong start to the Premier League.
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