After Norwich’s first-half defensive performance against Liverpool, you could be forgiven for thinking that yesterday’s game against Newcastle would be a tough test for Daniel Farke’s men.
But the Canaries have one of those rare qualities of promoted sides – they are fearless. They showed against Liverpool they weren’t afraid to take the game to even the highest quality opposition. Norwich continuously stretched Liverpool’s backline with the searing pace of Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis. Marco Stiepermann found himself in the opposition 18-yard box on numerous occasions but his finishing let him down.
The main component of this impressive Norwich side, however, is Finnish striker Teemu Pukki. It has been mentioned plenty of times – and probably even more during the season – that City signed the forward on a free transfer last summer. He scored 30 goals in all competitions last season – 29 of those coming in the league – averaging 132 minutes a goal and propelling Norwich to the Premier League.
Perhaps even more remarkably, every one of those 29 goals came from open play.
Pukki was one of a long line of Canaries players that took a penalty last campaign – five players shared six penalties, with Mario Vrancic the only one to successfully convert. Whilst the Finland man had an impressive Championship campaign, his quality is now being shown to an even bigger stage in the top flight.
In only two Premier League games, Pukki already has four goals to his name.
That in itself is perhaps not a surprise – Pukki has had nine shots this season, seven of them ending up on target.
And of Norwich’s offensive play against Newcastle, 70% of it came from within the 18-yard box.
Indeed, all three of Pukki’s goals against Newcastle yesterday came inside the box.
What struck me most about his opener yesterday was the ease in which he was left unmarked in the phase following a Norwich corner. The striker was there to pick up the pieces from a headed clearance and fired a crisp volley past Martin Dubravka. His second goal was a typical striker’s goal, Pukki receiving a sideways pass in the box following Todd Cantwell’s driving run, before switching the ball to his right foot and striking it past Dubravka’s near post. And the third was typical Pukki, making the run through the middle of the Newcastle defence.
Mario Vrancic did not find Pukki initially, although Cantwell’s dummy meant he was played through on goal, beating Sean Longstaff with ease and putting the ball into the back of the net.
The performance earned the man from Finland a perfect 10 rating on WhoScored.
For Norwich as a whole, they already look ready to take on the Premier League. Albeit against lower opposition last season, the Canaries scored 51 goals in 23 games at home, the highest in the league. And it may only be two games into the new season, but Norwich’s shot conversion rate of 14% (of 27 shots) is already a promising sign.
Goals will not be a problem you sense for them, although their defensive play could be an issue. Jonjo Shelvey scored a late consolation for the Magpies but Grant Hanley never looked like getting close to the ball when faced one on one. They have already conceded five goals in two games this term, although with the likes of Pukki in the side it brings to mind the simple conclusion that they will just outscore their opponents to survive Premier League safety.