Paddy Davitt: Have Norwich City found the new Grant Holt?
PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 July 2018 | UPDATED: 18:02 16 July 2018
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Appearances may well be deceptive when it comes to Norwich City’s summer signing Teemu Pukki.
On the very early evidence, since his free transfer from Danish club football after a previous career spell where he failed to impress at Celtic, you would not suggest Pukki is the tallest, or the quickest or the most eye-catching.
But the 28-year-old possesses something intangible that could prove quite compelling as this season unfolds.
There is a guile and a cunning to his movements and an awareness of space. He also happily assumed the talismanic role of a figure capable of altering the course of this friendly.
Daniel Farke is right to downplay the significance of results during pre-season, as he looks to integrate new players like Pukki with the established order. It is about fitness, essentially, tactical strategies and coping mechanisms for the Championship grind ahead.
But friendly or not, the half-time whistle in Sunday’s opening tour match was greeted with a thunderous look from Farke towards his under-performing players as they trooped down the tunnel at FC Gutersloh.
City were second best where it mattered. Paderborn bossed key midfield areas with energy and endeavour. Moritz Leitner was a virtual spectator, Dennis Srbeny an isolated figure and City’s backline under pressure whenever the Bundesliga 2 side poured forward.
Farke made four changes at the break but it was the change in mindset above all which triggered a quite remarkable transformation.
Norwich were level within the space of seven minutes and ahead after another four.
Srbeny lashed home his second goal in a matter of days; a sweet strike given it was a reminder what Paderborn lost when they sold him to the Canaries in January. The young man was plunged into the deep end towards the back end of the last campaign, as City’s coaching staff strived for a more effective formula. But the time to judge is still in the future and this was another shot of self-confidence.
A commodity Pukki clearly does not lack.
The Finn delicately pirouetted and then barrelled his way through a chasm in the middle of Paderborn’s rearguard before coolly slotting through the legs of the advancing Leopold Zingerle.
The striker’s second, and the winner, was pure quality. Collecting a ricochet from Onel Hernandez’s initial surge, Pukki opened his body just inside the box and using defenders as a screen curled a beauty into the far corner with Zingerle motionless.
In that one instinctive moment you were reminded of another talismanic figure who led the Norwich line in the not too distant past.
Another who at first glance may have failed to convince but within the parameters of the penalty box was a ruthless operator.
Comparisons with Grant Holt are both premature and wide of the mark, perhaps, given Holt’s longevity and success at Carrow Road, but Pukki appears to exude many of the same attributes.
Farke’s mission is to harness that threat in tandem with Srbeny or a Jordan Rhodes. Nelson Oliveira can be left off that list until his City future crystalises in what remains of the summer transfer window.
Oliveira’s absence from this touring party is not a good signal, whatever way you wish to cut it. A parting of the ways requires a suitor willing to match Norwich’s valuation and convince the player pastures new are in his best interests.
The latter part of that equation will not be difficult after a fractious first season under Farke.
But should Pukki and Rhodes gel, as the planning for an opening day league trip to Birmingham moves through the gears, then an exit strategy for Oliveira adds up on many levels.