Will City feel the benefit of Pukki’s return to goal-scoring form with Finland?
- Credit: AP
Norwich City supporters may take pride in Teemu Pukki’s success with Finland but their main concern is whether the Canaries will feel the benefit of Finland’s joy in the Premier League.
The striker has enjoyed a prolific stage of his career with Brondby, Norwich and his country but is without a goal in seven league games, a drastic dry spell by the Finn's own high standards.
Pukki had arrived in the Premier League on the back of a career-changing season of 36 goals in 56 matches for club and country, with his confidence still sky high as the campaign began.
Six goals in the opening six games of City's season - including a hat-trick during a 3-1 home win over Newcastle - saw the former Celtic, Schalke and Sevilla finisher launch his name into the national consciousness in England.
All of a sudden he was the darling of media pundits and fantasy football managers, as the rest of the country got a view of the clinical edge which powered last season's Championship title triumph.
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Pukki was even named Premier League Player of the Month for August - and then celebrated that success with a goal and an assist as reigning champions Manchester City were beaten 3-2 at Carrow Road.
Everything Teemu touched turned to gold, all was right with the yellow and green world, sporting director Stuart Webber had signed a new contract and hopes of a mid-table finish were high.
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The problem was, the 19 other top-flight teams has sat up and taken notice as well, realising just how dangerous Pukki was if he could see the whites of the goalkeeper's eyes. The secret was out.
With a defensive injury crisis causing problems at one end, teams started to sit deeper and make sure the Canaries' star man wasn't getting a run on goal at the other end, doing everything they could to isolate him.
The result has led to a worrying slump of six defeats in seven games, with Daniel Farke's team scoring just twice and claiming one point during that nosedive to the foot of the table - with Pukki failing to find the back of the net.
He had kept his motor ticking over with a couple of goals last month, as Finland won 3-0 against Armenia - a team sat 99th in the Fifa rankings - to move to the verge of their unexpected Euro 2020 qualification.
And once again the 29-year-old topped his confidence up while on international duty on Friday, with another brace in a 3-0 win over Liechtenstein which sealed the Finns' first ever qualification for a major tournament.
The Champagne sprayed, the celebrations spilled onto the streets of Helsinki and the national hero was once again making headlines across the continent.
With City boss Farke no doubt hoping Pukki will be used sparingly during this evening's final qualifying game, a dead rubber in Greece (7.45pm), attentions now turn to whether Pukki can end his mini-drought on the much tougher Premier League battleground.
As glorious as Friday night was, Liechtenstein are minnows in football terms, from a tiny country with a population of less than 40,000, ranked a lowly 181st in the world.
A player of Pukki's calibre and experience should be scoring against such opposition, but his overall contribution of nine goals in nine European qualifiers means just a handful of players have scored more so far, including superstars Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Finland's main man saw plenty of the ball on Friday though, with his deflected shot leading to the opening goal, the visiting keeper denying him with a diving stop and a header being cleared off the line.
Now City need to do the same, finding a way to make sure their flying Finn gets far more of the ball than in recent weeks, playing him into space and attacking the opposition box, where he so thrives.
It's of course easier said than done in the Premier League but with the January transfer window approaching, Pukki's finishing ability will have caught the attention of bigger clubs with plenty of money to spend.
Having signed a new contract until 2022, with the option for a further year, this summer that scenario at least ensures value will remain high. Yet he turns 30 in March and a chance of a crack at the big time could well prove tempting, if City's survival prospects have not improved.
Rediscover the creative edge which got the season off to such an encouraging start and the rest of Farke's squad can start smiling again as well. Give Pukki chances and he will score goals, that much is clear.