Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 3-0 Championship romp against Luton
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Luton verdict after Norwich City's 3-0 Championship win.
1. Normal service resumed
Luton’s bid for a hat-trick of wins over Premier League-bound Norwich looked a forlorn hope when City’s team dropped prior to kick-off. This was the frontline Daniel Farke was unable to field on two visits to Kenilworth Road.
Nevertheless, James Collins should have put the visitors in front when his sliding, far post effort struck the foot of Tim Krul’s post.
It proved a costly miss. Norwich moved through the gears, Krul thereafter was a spectator with the best view in the house as the Canaries' fluid football toyed with Nathan Jones’ battlers.
Teemu Pukki’s brace and Todd Cantwell’s classy finish exacted a modicum of revenge for those earlier losses.
More pertinently, it restored Norwich’s 10-point lead at the top after Watford had cut the gap in the lunchtime game.
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City have not looked back since that defeat to Swansea. Seven straight league wins and a dominance which may go down in the history of the Championship, if they maintain this hunger and this appetite for goals and points. It is relentless.
2. Hold on a minute, Teemu
Another brace took the main man’s goal tally to the season for 20. Or put it another way, within five now of Brentford’s Ivan Toney at the top of the Championship goal charts.
Pukki claimed City’s player-of-the-month award for a prolific February. Then in his acceptance speech made it clear the only ‘goal’ he is chasing is a return to the Premier League.
In that context every strike he manages nudges his team closer to that prize. But in doing so, he remains in the running for those individual accolades that crammed his mantlepiece two seasons ago at this level.
Pukki may well not be interested in repeating his personal success of being crowned the division’s leading marksman.
But in this form, and with Norwich so dominant, if he can steer clear of injury there will be plenty more opportunities to add to his growing tally over the run in.
3. The power of 10
Lukas Rupp’s inclusion in that attacking midfield role behind Pukki raised something of an eyebrow prior to the game. Mario Vrancic made way and Kieran Dowell, another contender for arguably the only available slot when everyone else is fit in the starting XI at present, kept in reserve.
When you add the fit-again Marco Stiepermann to this mix then Rupp perhaps had an unexpected opportunity to stake his claim.
His versatility was trumpeted when he arrived from the Bundesliga. But those assured displays alongside Olly Skipp in a holding role earlier in the campaign appeared to suggest that was his niche.
But his running power and quality on the ball were evident against a Hatters’ unit who afforded Norwich’s creative types too much space.
One gorgeous clipped pass fashioned a chance for Pukki. He was also involved in the opening goal and in the vicinity for the second.
Whether he did enough to hold off Stiepermann, who Farke again reminded any who had forgotten on Friday was rated the best number 10 at this level in the previous title-winning charge, only time will tell.
But in a squad with competition in every corner, it looks the hottest selection debate.
4. Hanging tough
Plenty of goals but also a 15th league clean sheet of the season, two more than the previous title-winning triumph under Farke. City’s boss spoke revealingly in the build up how plugging those holes was one of the enduring lessons he took from a sobering first brush with the Premier League.
Norwich went up the last time on a diet of attacking, carefree football. That template worked for a spell early on in the top flight before reality bit. Hard. When, not if, they return, Farke clearly wants to retain this added defensive resolve for the huge challenge that awaits.
Such a volume of clean sheets in the Championship is a good base, allied to the solidity and experience City possess with Krul, Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson all part of the battleplan.
But Farke will know facing some of the best attackers in the world is a different level. Nevertheless, this promotion has been built on the type of resolution they will need in abundance against the elite.
5. Any chance, Jose?
Publicly Norwich will remain firmly on message and insistent until the deal is sealed it would be foolish to look beyond Championship horizons. Privately, you can be sure the way both Farke and Stuart Webber operate there is a fully formed recruitment strategy for a return to the Premier League.
That will still hold plenty of variables at this stage; aspects outside City’s control if the crown jewels attract substantial and serious offers that might turn heads in the way James Maddison or a Ben Godfrey departed. The same applies to any concerted attempt to keep Skipp in Norfolk.
He is a Tottenham player, a man Jose Mourinho has touted as a future Spurs’ skipper. But whether his hugely impressive tour at the lower level catapults him firmly into Tottenham’s plans as a credible starter next season remains to be seen.
The bigger issue for Norwich is not whether they could offer him the stage to further his education as a regular Premier League star, it is how persuasive they could be to plot a return when there are likely to be plenty of other suitors if he is not part of Tottenham’s immediate plans.
City will need certainly and a fair degree of speed to their summer recruitment. Holding on while Mourinho potentially makes his mind up is not an option you would suspect appeals to the Canaries. It might be worth putting in the groundwork now.