Ian Clarke: Pukki has been woefully let down by goal-shy team-mates

Teemu Pukki scores Norwich Citys first goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match at

Teemu Pukki's second half penalty offered Norwich City a route back into the game against Chelsea. - Credit: Daniel Hambury/Focus Images Ltd

I'll start this week with a slightly random quiz question.

What do Michael Keane and Juraj Kucka have in common?

For those who don't immediately recognise their names, Keane is a central defender for Everton and Kucka is a Watford midfielder.

Got the answer yet?

Let me give you a big clue - Keane got the Canaries up and running when he steered the ball past his keeper in front of the Barclay back in January, while just a few days later Kucka netted a few yards away from the joyful away following to complete the scoring in that fantastic win for City at Vicarage Road.

I'm sure you've now twigged. If you haven't, here's the big reveal - and it's a pretty shocking indictment of the Canaries' woes this season.

As we mope our way through a prolonged break and "look forward" to the remaining nine games and almost certain relegation, we ponder such statistics that Keane and Kucka are currently Norwich's joint third top scorers.

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Yes, really. And no, it's not an early April Fools' gag.

In the 29 games of this pretty depressing campaign, City have found the opposition's net just 18 times.

Norwich City players show dejection as they concede the first goal during the Premier League match a

Norwich City players, from left, Josh Sargent, Grant Hanley and Max Aarons react to Southampton's first goal - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

While such an appalling return is not the only reason why we're facing an immediate return through the trap door, it's clearly a huge part of the malaise.

Teemu Pukki - someone I always find it hard to criticise - has chipped in with eight of those 18. 

Yes, he's the main man striker. Yes, that's his key role. 

Regular readers of this column may recall a few months ago I said it was time for someone else to take on the burden of being the key outlet of scoring away from Pukki and he could perhaps take on a "super sub" type role.

Well, that idea has gone down well then......

Even the Finn's biggest fan would admit that he has not been at his best this season.

Opposition defenders have too often worked him out, he's missed some key chances and he has undoubtedly struggled without the the quality of service which he thrives on.

But I refuse to lay too much of the blame for City's woefully inadequate goal return at Pukki's door.

Let's remember the amazing impact he has had since arriving at Carrow Road and, despite two tough top-flight campaigns, he still averages well over a goal every two games in his City career.

What that Keane/Kucka fact proves is just how Pukki has been let down by his goal-shy teammates this year.

Josh Sargent's two goals in that 23-minute period at Watford are his only contributions, leaving him second in the scoring chart.

Josh Sargent and Adam Idah have both opened their Premier League goal accounts under Dean Smith

Josh Sargent and Adam Idah have both opened their Premier League goal accounts under Dean Smith - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

Joining the own goal boys are Andrew Omobamidele, Grant Hanley, Kenny McLean, Matthias Normann, Milot Rashica and Adam Idah on a miserly single goal.

Accepting that Sargent, Rashica and Idah are forwards, that means City have scored just two goals from the midfield and two from defence this season.

That is simply unacceptable and the entire squad have to stand up and be counted for their failings.

We can all think back over the years when the likes of Malky, Mark Bowen, Bradley Johnson, Gossy and Co could be relied on to chip in with goals.

If the defence and more defensively-minded midfielders were doing their job in keeping things tight at the back, we may be more sympathetic.

But with 63 goals already having been leaked, that argument just can't be made.

If City let in more than 12 in the remaining nine matches (surely that's inevitable), the total will be even worse than two years ago.

Dean Smith replaced Daniel Farke as Norwich City head coach in November

Dean Smith replaced Daniel Farke as Norwich City head coach in November - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

Meanwhile, Smith's men will have to net eight more in those final games to reach the pretty paltry total from 2019/20.

I hate to sound so gloomy. It goes against my natural instincts as a City fan.

However, something has to change.

Is it the personnel on the pitch? Is it the management team? Is it the formation?

There are so many questions which need answers.

I'm sure a lot of reflection will be going on over this period without games.

And I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking we need to hear from Stuart Webber and Delia as well as Dean Smith about the way forward.

OTBC


Club in a state

I've stopped myself booing the Norwich players this season, even in the poorest performances.

But I did yell some loud boos at Carrow Road last week.

The trigger for my anger was the sound of a large part of the Chelsea away contingent joyfully chanting the name of Roman Abramovich.

I get it that the Russian has pretty much been the reason why the Londoners went from an average club to European and World Club champions.

However, what I just can't fathom is how anyone who has seen the murderous invasion of Ukraine by Putin can sing the name of someone who is intrinsically linked to him.

It's sickening.

I am friends with plenty of Chelsea fans but they have to take the consequences of the entirely appropriate sanctions on their owner.


Bradenham boys!

I've already done one quiz question this week - so here's another.

What links Todd (Dereham's finest, one of our own, on-loan at Bournemouth) Cantwell and King's Lynn-born teenager Joe Taylor, who has just made his debut for Peterborough?

It's actually not a football link - it's that they both played cricket for Bradenham.

My good mate Brett Gates - a legend at the mid-Norfolk club - pointed out the fact and it's quite a coup for everyone there.

Bournemouth look set to cross paths with City as they head back to the Premier League and you'd expect Todd to complete a permanent deal if that's the case.

It's a great shame about the way things have worked out between him and the Canaries, but I can only wish him all the best.

And let's hope young Joe can fly with Posh and make a real name for himself.