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Evasive movement, sharp link-up play and efficient finishing - analysing Norwich City star Teemu Pukki

Arindam Rej
Teemu Pukki has already scored four goals this season - REUTERS

Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki epitomises the club's intelligent and at times left-field recruitment policy, seamlessly taking to life in the Premier League. 

After a promising all-round performance and consolation goal at Liverpool, Pukki's hat-trick against Newcastle earned Daniel Farke's side their first three points of the season. 

Like Ian Wright and Jamie Vardy before him, 29-year-old Pukki is a late bloomer after a nomadic and unremarkable career prior to his move to Carrow Road. 

So what makes him so effective?

Finishing

No player has made such a goalscoring impact in his first two Premier League appearances than Teemu Pukki. With four goals, the Finn, a free transfer from Brondby last summer, having previously flopped at Celtic, has continued his form of last season, when he scored 30 in all competitions.

His hat-trick against Newcastle reflected his penalty-box prowess. All three goals came from inside the area – and he is no more dangerous than when he has just ventured into the 18-yard box. This is a man who fires accurate arrows, not necessarily long-range rockets.

The opening two goals against Newcastle were both with his right foot, hits from around 15 yards. At Carrow Road, Pukki’s right-footed goals are a familiar sight, as this is by far his stronger foot for finishing. 

The first was a sweet volley, the second was just tucked away in a narrow space after a few smart, cushioning touches.

What should be frightening for slack defenders, though, is that he added a third with his left. The 29-year-old cut inside and just delicately touched the ball in with his apparent weaker foot.

He has slick feet – he is not a battering ram – and his relative lack of height (at just under 6ft) means he is not an obvious aerial target.

His finishing has not been unblemished in the Premier League so far – he could actually have had a couple more – but, unlike during his Celtic days, the confidence is there and he is looking sharp.

Pukki scored a hat-trick against Newcastle  Credit: Action Images

Movement

Pukki’s movements – which are numerous – are performed with a subtle simplicity which makes him so efficient, and such a headache for defenders.

Steve Bruce, the Newcastle manager, was spot on when he said, in his post-match press conference, that his team should not have given Pukki “one” yard of space, yet they gave him “two”.

Seeing the Norwich striker play regularly, it is noticeable how often he pops up in the right position.

He can glide past defenders in a way that you would not expect from a barrel-chested man in comparison to, say, a lithe winger – the way that he left Fabian Schar trailing on one occasion on Saturday, was an example of that. He can turn sharply and be evasive.

Due to his activity being concentrated in central areas, he needs those alongside him to be more mobile. 

But that is not an issue because of the dynamism of Norwich’s attacking midfielders – including the likes of Emi Buendia – and forward-thinking, energetic full-backs – Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis – providing width.  

Daniel Farke, the Norwich manager, has praised Pukki for the way he charged back in the first half to try to win the ball Credit: REUTERS

Link-up play

Norwich are quick to move forward, as they showed last season, and capable of producing devastating counter-attacks – a style that is suited to Pukki.

The Finnish striker likes to run in behind defenders and he is also effective with his back to goal. Those qualities help him to bring others into play.

Again, that tends to be most in evidence inside the penalty area. He is often strong with his hold-up play and knows how to deliver a key pass. His fitness and physicality appear to have improved with time, which is part of the reason he is a different player now, compared to the one who struggled at Celtic.

In his press conference, Daniel Farke, the Norwich manager, praised Pukki for the way he charged back in the first half to try to win the ball, calling him a role model. But that may have been a message to encourage the player to do that more, as he tends not to be found in much deeper areas.

Then again, Norwich’s central midfielders – such as Marco Stiepermann – can offer a level of control that allows Pukki to link the play in his favoured parts of the field.

Farke knows that there could be times this season when goalscoring will not come as easily to Pukki in the Premier League, which is why the link-up play of the player – who idolised Brazil’s Ronaldo as a youngster – could become increasingly important.