Canaries Debate: A Pukki-less side presents a worrying new world for City
PUBLISHED: 06:00 17 December 2019
When Norwich City’s head coach Daniel Farke revealed in his post-match comments that Teemu Pukki had potentially broken his toe, the Canaries nation collectively took a sharp intake of breath.
They've been through the mire with injuries this season, from the depleted looking squad that failed to limp its way through matches to the absence of natural central defensive options. The misfortune of City's injury woes and performances on the pitch have been inextricably linked.
Prior to that impressive draw with Leicester City, they were a side who many had accused of flatlining but they proved there was still life within them at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
However, a crushing diagnosis on the Finn could have seen the rainclouds assemble over Carrow Road once more.
With the news of Pukki's toe not being broken, City's medical staff will now put in the hours in an attempt to ensure the Finn is fit and firing for the visit of Wolves on Saturday.
With nine Premier League goals to his name, Pukki is joined in some esteemed company alongside Mo Salah, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero. These goal-scoring exploits have already seen him overtake City's top-scorers in their last three seasons at this level.
Underlying that context is proof that Pukki's contribution is pivotal to any prospect of survival for the Canaries.
His goals make up 50pc of the Canaries output this season, should his injury prevent him playing on Saturday and with understudy Josip Drmic also occupying the treatment table, where do City turn to for goals?
Naturally, those discussing the striker will point towards the goals he scores but his overall contribution cannot be ignored when understanding his significance to City's offensive productivity.
The manner in which he torments defenders with his movement and running is intrinsic to his chance creation. This isn't merely a striker who feeds in the penalty area; this is one capable of producing chances in equal measure.
Extend that influence onto the international stage, and the realisation of his consistency and quality is astounding.
With Euro 2020 on the horizon, the Finn will be stretching every fibre of his being to ensure he is named in the Finland squad next summer.
Considering his positive form in the qualification campaign, only fitness issues would see him omitted from Markku Kanerva's thoughts.
The notion of Pukki not being named in the City team news that's announced an hour prior to kick-off seems unthinkable given the Finn has featured in every squad since the Canaries beat Brentford in October 2018.
In fact, Pukki only missed three games due to injury last season and is ever-present so far in the Premier League. Since he signed for the Canaries, the earliest he's been substituted off is the 79th minute following his return from that injury last year.
The reliance on Pukki is evident; his goals helped fire City to the summit of the Championship and may ensure they retain their status in the Premier League.
His reliability alongside his offensive productivity makes him a critical cog in Farke's machinery. So, if he is absent for the fixture on Saturday, in what direction does City's boss turn?
Given Drmic isn't expected to return until January, the only other first-team striking options at Farke's disposal are Dennis Srbeny and Adam Idah.
Srbeny netted in City's victory on Merseyside last month, netting in stoppage time to secure three points against Everton. His narrative is compelling given he was operating in the fourth tier of German football three years ago.
His rise has been seismic but his adaptation to life in England testing. Pukki's emergence has seen his game time limited. However, the German does have a set of raw materials that, if harnessed, could pose a threat to opponents.
His willingness to work the channels as well as dropping into intelligent deeper positions to receive the ball has seen Farke toy with the idea of deploying Srbeny in an attacking midfield position.
A surging run at Birmingham City on the opening day of the 2018 season saw him tee up Onel Hernandez to equalise in the dying embers and an impressive performance against then Premier League Cardiff City in the Carabao Cup underlines his potential quality.
Idah is yet to feature in the top-flight for the Canaries but is a highly-rated talent within the club. Either of those options would see Farke opt for potential rather than know-how.
Farke could even attempt to find a solution from within his technical midfield but, whatever the solution, a Pukki-less City side is a terrifying prospect.