David Freezer: Could resting Pukki against Spurs benefit City’s survival prospects?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It feels like Norwich City blasphemy to even ask this question but is it time to give Teemu Pukki a rest?
Canaries fans who have read my work in recent years will know just how highly I rate the striker, his impact and consistency have been remarkable, he is already well on the way to legendary status at City.
Yet, the Pukki we've seen in the last few games has not looked as sharp and hasn't had that same Finnish ice running through his veins at the crucial moments.
This is a man with 50 goals in 71 games for club and country during the last 18 months, who has been enjoying the best days of his career, barely missing a minute of action for Norwich or Finland so far this season.
The 29-year-old has started and finished 17 of 19 Premier League games, being replaced late in just two matches, scoring nine goals and continuing his rise to stardom.
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It was following his fine finish during the first half of the 1-1 draw at Leicester earlier this month that Ricardo Pereira appears to have found the source of Pukki's powers though.
City's reigning Player of the Season tracked back to challenge the Foxes defender and went down holding his right foot before half-time, playing on with a badly bruised toe, which was initially feared to be a fracture.
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In the second half he was twice unable to bring fine through-balls from Emi Buendia and Ben Godfrey under his spell, a new trend which followed after being played clean through on three occasions by Buendia during the 2-1 home loss to Wolves.
It happened again at Villa on Boxing Day, the Argentine playmaker curling another ideal through-ball into the main man's path, only to hesitate, miss the chance to prod at goal and be swallowed up by two recovering defenders.
Pukki in full flight would be ruthlessly dispatching such golden opportunities, leaving City fans to wonder if that toe is causing enough discomfort to knock him off balance. To be a success in the Premier League you need to be operating at 100 percent, let alone when you have two games in three days.
The problem is the lack of competition. Dennis Srbeny may have scored late on to seal the 2-0 win at Everton but has looked off the pace in his brief appearances as a substitute since, Adam Idah is an unproven 18-year-old and the far more experienced Josip Drmic is out of contention until mid-January with his latest injury problem.
Srbeny has waited patiently for his chances in the past two years so would appear to be at the front of the queue and, sitting bottom of the table, giving some fringe players a chance to impress can't really do too much harm.
Perhaps the short term pain of a Pukki absence would be for the long term gain though, with City needing a massive swing in form to have any chance of teeing up a cliffhanger ending to rival the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special.
So much so that to reach 36 points - the average required to survive in the past 10 seasons - and even be in with a chance they now need to take 24 points from the remaining 19 games.
Six wins, six draws, seven defeats, that sounds possible, but it's only going to happen if the Canaries have their star striker fit and firing on all cylinders.
If he were to be kept in reserve for a really tough game against Spurs, with an eye on a more winnable game against Palace on New Year's Day, he could then get a good week's rest in if he's left out of the FA Cup trip to Preston.
It's then a trip to Manchester United and a home clash with Bournemouth on successive Saturdays, followed by a midweek trip to Tottenham and then a potential FA Cup fourth round tie.
After a trip to Newcastle the next weekend it's the Premier League's first two-week winter break, when Pukki and all the City players will get the chance for a proper break in anticipation for (checks fixture list), oh, runaway leaders Liverpool.
If Daniel Farke can manage to salvage survival from here it will well and truly dwarf last season's title success - but that's surely only going to happen with Pukki back on form.
- Would you rest Pukki - and who would replace him? Let us know in the poll above