Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' thumping 4-1 Championship win against Stoke

Teemu Pukki embraces Emi Buendia after his tap in from the Argentine's assist in Norwich City's Championship game against...

Teemu Pukki embraces Emi Buendia after his tap in from the Argentine's assist in Norwich City's Championship game against Stoke City - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Stoke verdict after Norwich City's emphatic 4-1 Championship win.

1. Fresh 

Norwich delivered where it mattered most. Daniel Farke could talk around the factors behind the recent goal drought, and the invitation it offered to both Brentford and Swansea to reel them in at the top. 

But with Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia back among the goals, and the chances piling up again in welcome multiples, the manner of City’s four-goal salvo will reassure plenty. 

Norwich returned to the summit with Swansea not in action and Brentford hosting Barnsley later this weekend. 

Farke made it clear in the build up they relish leading from the front. There was certainly a hunger, an energy and a desire that overwhelmed a committed Stoke side.

There was some uncomfortable moments with Steven Fletcher offering a physical focal point, but Norwich responded when it mattered. Whether it was the full week to prepare or just the extra motivation from a recent lean spell, this felt like a statement performance and result.  

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2. Straight and narrow from here, Emi 

A touch of symmetry perhaps to Buendia’s return from his latest suspension - given he saw the red mist at Stoke in the corresponding Championship fixture. One need not re-open fresh wounds around his latest aberration against Middlesbrough; however harsh that second yellow card was on the day.  

Instead, just marvel in what he offers this Norwich collective when he is on the park and contributing. 

He is a special player in this City unit. His skill on the ball, balance, intelligence, technical grace matched by a desire that on occasion pushes him the wrong side of the line. 

Here it pushed him on to close down Morgan Fox in what some might have seen as a forlorn chase. Then he was able to cushion the ball with his head before the simplest of tap ins for Pukki brought the Argentine his eighth assist of the campaign. An eighth goal followed when he superbly swept home Dimitris Giannoulis’ low cross. 

There will surely be many more of both over the crucial run in if he can stay in the moment, contain his enthusiasm and manage his frustration. 

3. Look away. Look back again 

However Giannoulis’ Norwich City career pans out from this point he will do well to top the mad three minutes where he surely experienced the full range of emotions in the second half of what in the end was a routine first win in Canaries’ colours.

Only he knows what the plan was when he turned back infield deep in his own half and squared the ball to Nick Powell to drag Stoke back into this contest. If there had been punters inside Carrow Road there would have been a collective gasp. Some of his team mates just stood and stared.  

But to the Greek international’s eternal credit what threatened to be an uncomfortable final period was the catalyst for him to make amends with an attacking burst to the byline and then a composed cutback swept home by Buendia. Those same team mates made a point of congratulating Giannoulis as much as they did Buendia. It could be a pivotal moment already for the January signing.  

Can you begin to imagine the reaction had that triggered a Stoke fightback, and raised fresh questions about Norwich’s capacity to pick up the pace?  

That one horrendous lapse aside, Giannoulis actually looked far more willing to handle the defensive aspect of his craft that is essential in this league. Those Middlesbrough and Millwall tussles must have come as a culture shock. He is on a sharp learning curve. This, in the final analysis, felt like a step forward. 

4. Remarkable Toddy 

Given the incisiveness and the clinical finish that opened the scoring for Norwich it prompted a double take to realise that was only Cantwell’s third goal of this season. A poor return for a man with his undoubted talent. 

The clever pivot bought him space to drive between two Stoke players as he approached the Potters’ box. Then the awareness to follow his pass to Mario Vrancic, another on the same creative wavelength in conjuring a back heel Cantwell lashed inside Angus Gunn’s near post on his left foot. 

But perhaps there was a later example of why it was only his third entry onto the scoresheet, with a wild lash from Buendia’s sublime outside of the foot pass that left him with only Gunn to beat. 

Cantwell’s target from here must surely be to eclipse his six-goal haul at the highest level last season. Since that uncomfortable summer transfer window episode, and one or two injury-related absences, the youngster has underlined why he is such a key figure when he is at his influential best.  

If he and Buendia can hit a productive seam from here the recent introspection and search for more end product will be an isolated spell for his side.   

5. Pukki power 

The Finn enveloped Buendia in a huge bear hug after the Argentine served up surely the easiest finish of his season to get him back up and running after a lean spell. There was plenty of feeling in that warm embrace. 

This has been another tough tour thus far for a man who could do no wrong in the Championship two seasons ago. A cool second half penalty brought him his second brace against Stoke this campaign. It will also give him a huge confidence boost and the knowledge, with Buendia in this type of form, that fitful supply line in recent weeks will start to flow again more freely. 

Farke took time out on Friday to underline why Pukki needed some slack cut over a recent scoreless spell for the Canaries.  

With Jordan Hugill injured and Adam Idah only at the cameo stage from the bench he was thrust back into the starting line up following a three week lay off of his own for that side strain injury. 

Pukki carries a heavy burden in this squad, and unfair comparisons perhaps with whatever he can muster now compared to that prolific patch in his career which propelled Norwich previously to the Premier League. Here he looked fit and fresh and full of energy.  

The penalty came as a result of his harassing of Nathan Collins that led to Buendia being felled. Of all the positive strands to City hitting their attacking stride again, Pukki back on full power might be the biggest. 

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