Stat attack: Rhodes has provided good support but Pukki is so important to City
Does Jordan Rhodes deserve more game time at Norwich City? It's a question plenty of fans have been asking in the wake of the striker's crucial equaliser at West Brom.
Given the superb form of top scorer Teemu Pukki, the Sheffield Wednesday loanee has had to remain patient on the sidelines, with proper chances to impress few and far between.
It’s been difficult for the 28-year-old to complain – and to be fair to him, he hasn’t. The team spirit and positive outlook of the Scotland international has made him a real fan favourite, to add to his goal-laden career showing Ipswich they were wrong to let him leave as a youngster.
That was the attitude projected once again by Rhodes as he spoke to the media after his 84th minute goal at The Hawthorns on Saturday, less than three minutes after coming on alongside Kenny McLean. The Scotland internationals quickly combined, with a lovely cushioned finish from the striker turning in a McLean cross from close range to send over 2,700 away fans wild behind the same goal.
So can Daniel Farke make room for Rhodes in his high-flying team, or could he even play the former Blackburn and Huddersfield forward alongside star man Pukki?
That was the combination tried during the disappointing start to the campaign, with the Finland international playing slightly deeper as a support striker and Rhodes spearheading the attack.
It worked to an extent during the 2-2 draw at Birmingham on the opening day but an Onel Hernandez brace was needed to salvage a point in a dramatic climax, which included Rhodes being denied by two superb saves and missing a golden chance to put the Canaries 2-1 up on his debut.
Both strikers were on target during the 4-3 home defeat to West Brom which followed, as Tim Krul and City’s defence shot themselves in the metaphorical foot.
Farke continued to try using both, with Rhodes scoring in the 2-1 loss at Sheffield United and Pukki in the unconvincing 2-0 win over Preston at Carrow Road.
However, as with so much of this campaign, things changed after the 3-0 home humiliation against Leeds and a drab 1-1 draw at Ipswich left the Canaries just a point clear of the bottom three after six matches.
Pukki’s prominence as the lone striker, with the reborn Marco Stiepermann behind him, began with his winner in the 1-0 win over Middlesbrough after the first international break.
It began a run of 18 Championship fixtures which featured 13 goals from the summer signing from Brondby, including five decisive match-winners as the Finn became an indispensable member of Farke’s surprise promotion prospects.
Here’s how City’s strikers compare in the league so far...
• Dennis Srbeny
1 goal (average of one every 131 minutes)
• Teemu Pukki
15 goals (av one every 143 mins)
• Jordan Rhodes
6 goals (av one every 153 mins)
German striker Srbeny has had to be even more patient than Rhodes, with all 13 of his Championship appearances coming as a substitute – his only goal coming in the 4-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday in November.
While for Rhodes, from starting the opening six matches of the league campaign, just three of his last 19 appearances in the Championship have been from the start.
All of those followed Pukki picking up an injury while on international duty in early October – and to be fair to the former Boro man, those starts were scoring both goals in a 2-1 home win over Aston Villa, as well as wins over Nottingham Forest and Brentford.
Timing was against him though. Pukki returned with two goals as Rhodes was ineligible against parent club Wednesday and ever since it’s mostly been late appearances as a substitute.
Here’s how’s City’s strikers compare in all competitions though...
• Jordan Rhodes
9 goals (average of one every 122 minutes)
• Teemu Pukki
16 goals (av one every 135 mins)
• Dennis Srbeny
3 goals (av one every 191 mins)
For context, that improved return does include a hat-trick against League One side Wycombe in the League Cup third round, but also shows that Rhodes is proving a very reliable player when called upon by Farke.
Whether City’s head coach can get both of his strikers on the pitch again, after such success with a lone striker, seems unlikely.
Yet there’s also no doubting that Rhodes still has a huge part to play in a potential promotion chase.