David Freezer: Red hot Pukki, earning your luck and Zimbo’s impact – Six things learned as City’s winning streak continues
PUBLISHED: 06:30 24 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:02 24 September 2018
As Norwich City’s season moves up a gear thanks to three consecutive victories, David Freezer looks at six lessons learned from a winning resurgence.
1 – Canaries had earned their luck
The Canaries’ dominance during the first half at Loftus Road was remarkable – like a Premier League team trying to find a way past lower level opposition in the FA Cup.
To have 72pc of possession at half-time was impressive, teeing up what seemed an inevitable comeback from the hosts to grab an undeserved goal. Yet on this occasion, the football gods smiled on City.
For all that dominance, the visitors didn’t create enough chances in the first 45 minutes and it wasn’t until QPR started to press and leave gaps that the chances really started to flow, with some slick counter-attacking play rewarded by a slightly fortunate winner.
In total the Canaries attempted 572 passes, a full 250 more than the Rs, with 80pc successful – finishing with 63pc of possession.
There was only one team which deserved to win this game and while the deflected Marco Stiepermann cross may have fallen kindly to Teemu Pukki, City had more than earned their luck.
2 – Pukki’s reactions are red hot
Steve McClaren’s sour quip that Pukki’s winner was ‘not even a proper goal’ was poor form – and far from accurate.
Not only was the on-fire Finn’s finish better than that but had the QPR boss been honest he would have acknowledged that Norwich deserved the three points.
The trigger for the winner was a lovely back-heeled flick from Todd Cantwell which allowed Stiepermann to cross from the left, which Toni Leistner deflected to loop the ball in Pukki’s direction.
At first look perhaps it seemed City’s top scorer knew little about the goal but on closer inspection it’s clear there was more work to be done, reacting sharply to power the ball back in the opposite direction with his chest to make sure keeper Joe Lumley couldn’t stop it.
His sixth of the season and eighth in 12 games for club and country – with five in his last five, all of which have been victories. In 2018 he has 21 goals in 35 games for City, Brondby and Finland. He’s a red hot Pukki.
3 – Cantwell’s education continues
It was another fine learning experience for academy product Todd Cantwell at Loftus Road.
Fresh from an impressive league debut during the win at Reading in midweek, when he created Pukki’s opener, the creative 20-year-old was again involved in the build-up to City’s goal.
The Prince of Dereham was once again full of the flicks and tricks that made him the talk of the youth ranks for many a year at Colney – bringing with it talk of reported interest from Arsenal when he was 18.
However, the ex-England U17’s big chance has come in an unfamiliar left wing role in the absence of Onel Hernandez and that has brought with it defensive demands, working with Jamal Lewis to keep the left flank as safe as possible.
One almighty dressing down from keeper Tim Krul after a careless flick near his own goal during the second half made sure Cantwell knows what is expected but he is largely coping well.
4 – Upturn is new high for Farke
All of a sudden the table has become rather congested after leaders Leeds lost the final remaining unbeaten record in the Championship.
City may still be in 11th but they are just four points off top spot thanks to the three-game winning surge currently being enjoyed.
It’s the first time since Daniel Farke took charge as head coach that the Canaries have won three on the bounce – and the win at QPR also moved the German’s team ahead of the developmental curve of last season.
The opening nine games of Farke’s reign brought 12 points but the win at Loftus Road leaves City on 14, two adrift of fourth place. To stay ahead of that curve another win will be required against Wigan at Carrow Road on Saturday – when a fine welcome home is guaranteed.
One loss in seven, unbeaten in five and rediscovered defensive strength have injected fresh positivity but nothing has been achieved yet, City can’t afford to take their foot off the pedal.
5 – Big Zimm is the clean sheet king
The two clean sheets earned during the three-match return to form has brought Christoph Zimmermann back to the forefront at City.
The towering German passed 50 games in a Norwich shirt at Reading and has lessened the blow of losing captain Grant Hanley to injury considerably in the process.
Farke knows the defender better than most, having accelerated his development when he took over Dortmund II in 2015, before bringing his captain to Norfolk. His coach said it was ‘ridiculous’ that he has not been able to start Zimmermann more this season – and that is backed up by the stats.
Since the start of last season Timm Klose has kept 16 clean sheets in 49 starts (33pc) and Grant Hanley has kept nine in 37 (24pc).
Zimmermann has 16 in 40 starts to his name (40pc) and while his defensive work has been good, it’s his passing ability which fits so well with Farke’s style – with the highest successful pass rate (89pc) on the pitch at QPR.
6 – All Rhodes lead to Wycombe
The consequence of Pukki’s superb form in the central striker role has rather sidelined Jordan Rhodes during City’s resurgence.
The loan striker still looked thrilled for his team-mate when he replaced the Finn two minutes into injury time as City closed on a deserved victory over Rangers.
He will have been less than thrilled with himself when spurning a golden chance for a third goal of the season, put on a plate for him by Cantwell in the penalty area, only to fire straight at QPR keeper Lumley.
The positive body language of the 28-year-old during the full-time celebrations suggested he remains very much a part of this City squad moving forward.
However, thanks to Matt Gregory for the tip off on Twitter for this one, the cup tie at Wycombe could be an ideal chance for Rhodes. The last time he went to Adams Park, back in January 2012, he scored no less than five goals as Huddersfield thrashed Wycombe 6-0!