Although Teemu Pukki has succumbed to relegation for the second time with Norwich City, he remains one of the most fascinating and complete centre-forwards on the planet. Full of exceptional movement, intelligent pressing, and a natural eye for goal, Pukki scored 11 times in both of his two Premier League campaigns for the worst team in the league. Now at the age of 32, Teemu Pukki is unlikely to return to the Premier League. That said, his price tag according to Transfermarkt sits at just €5 million, which would be an absolute steal for a player who’s hit double figures in both of his Premier League seasons. With that, we discuss and analyze the remarkabilities of Teemu Pukki, and the potential suitors for the Finnish forward if he were to seek pastures new this summer.
exceptional movementEmbed from Getty Images
Teemu Pukki personifies everything we discussed two years ago in ‘How to move like a world class striker‘. He excellently positions himself in between defenders, on the blindside of defenders, and perfectly times his runs into shooting positions to match the timing of the pass. Here we can see an example of Teemu Pukki wonderfully pulling off the back of a central defender. As Victor Lindelof finds himself attracted to the ball carrier, Pukki drifts to the right-half-space on the Swede’s blind-spot, with the left-back in Alex Telles completely out of sight and done for dust.
With acres of space to receive beyond the centre-back and two obvious gaps to play into, Pukki can then expertly time his run for the finish. Moments later in the match, we see another fantastic example of his awareness of space. In this instance, Pukki perfectly positions himself between Maguire and Lindelof, and then adjusts his run upon realizing the even greater space available on the outside of one of the two centre-backs.
The pass ends up behind his path, but Pukki still improvises to knock the ball down and create a chance for his teammate. He’s never just creating space for himself to finish, but for others to flourish and vibe. For a 32-year-old (or anyone for that matter), he’s exceptionally quick, and still has pace to burn on the break for any top level team.
Beyond the final third, the Finnish forward also intelligently times runs in deep to facilitate build-up play, and then bursts forward at unsuspecting moments to disrupt the opposition’s structures. This means that defenders attempting to man-mark the Norwich man have a particularly difficult time, as he floats about into central channels to receive the ball, and then often ends up racing through down the right-half-space to receive the ball at an angle and time his finish. You can see exactly this in the first 20 seconds of this highlight video against Manchester United.
This encounter happened to be one of Pukki’s best games of the 2021-22 campaign, in large part due to the chaos he erupted within Manchester United’s defensive structures, and the ease at which he pulled players like Maguire out of position. In fact, Pukki never just holds the line and waits for the ball. He wants to actively involve himself in all phases, drifting wherever best facilitates the progression of the ball. He’s not shy in picking up pockets of space out wide or in the left-half-space either, where he will then drive forward on the ball and facilitate passes to other players. This is exactly how he assisted Norwich’s first goal of the game against United.
Here you can see the way in which the Norwich man smartly runs into the exact space vacated by Maguire’s attempts to man-mark another player, and the quality of his left-footed pass across goal to leave David De Gea without a prayer. This kind of movement makes the 32-year-old stand out among the rest, and helps him to create a plentitude of scoring chances, even in a team so notoriously bad at scoring goals in the top flight.
INTELLIGENT PRESSINGEmbed from Getty Images
While Norwich were rightly lambasted for their poor defending in 2021-22, Teemu Pukki did everything to play his part in leading the press from the front. In fact, no player made more pressures in the attacking third than Teemu Pukki’s 373 – almost 100 more than second-place Ollie Watkins (284). His tackle and pressure success could be higher, but the latter of those percentages speaks more to a lack of success from his mates in backing up his relentless work ethic from the front. Within the last 365 days, Pukki has out-pressured 88% of the other centre-forwards in Europe’s top five leagues. This boasts well for his ability to fit in at another Premier League outfit, where he’d be backed up by midfield units more capable of winning the ball in behind his tireless work rate.Embed from Getty Images
In addition to the energy and intensity behind his pressing, Pukki also understands how to angle his body side-on to force his opponent one-way and cut-off dangerous passing lanes. Boasting such a high number of total pressures also presents a strong case for his fitness and durability, reducing the concern of his age and potential years remaining at the top level.
EYE FOR GOALEmbed from Getty Images
The final top-quality ability of Teemu Pukki just so happens to be the most obvious, and the one that he’s become known for since breaking through at Norwich back in 2018. As already noted, Pukki scored 11 goals in both of his Premier League seasons. But even more encouragingly, he also netted 25+ goals in both of his two Championship campaigns with the Canaries. This demonstrates Pukki’s remarkable eye for goal with or without players that hone a higher than average quality in the league. Pukki often aims for the lower corners with his shots, and can score a range of left-foot, right-foot, and headed goals. On the right side, he will often opt for power, aiming hard and low. But when he feels the pressure to get the shot off quickly, Pukki will often select an outside of the boot finish, particularly when shooting from the left of the keeper.
An expert one-time finisher, Pukki nicely assesses when to strike the ball to give himself the optimal chance of scoring. If that means delaying the shot and taking a player on, he may opt to dribble past one more defender instead. If that means taking the shot on immediately, he will ensure the shot gets off before an on-rushing keeper or defender closes him down. His finishing at the highest level could always improve, but still remains well situated to match even the best in the division.
So with his intelligent movement, relentless pressing, and natural eye for a goal, we analyze the best suitors for Teemu Pukki if a move were to be made this summer.
SOUTHAMPTONEmbed from Getty Images
Southampton are one of the many teams that could upgrade on their striking options, having scored just 43 goals in 38 matches last season. Unpromisingly, the on-loan Armando Broja netted 6 of those goals, and 10 more came from James Ward-Prowse and much of his set-piece magic.
Pukki thrives in the half-spaces, which would allow him to excel in Hasenhuttl’s two-striker system. Much of Southampton’s play involves direct attacks through the centre of the pitch, where aspects like carrying and dribbling into the final third become more important than threading the needle. This would suit Pukki’s dynamic dribbling well, while also providing a greater cutting edge in front of goal. Further, not only does the Finnish forward exemplify Southampton’s in-possession characteristics, but he’s also a pressing machine – perfectly fitting Ralph Hasenhuttl’s defensive ideologies. This would be a match made in heaven, and at €5 million would be an excellent signing for the short-term, if nothing else.
BRENTFORDEmbed from Getty Images
Brentford are another team that play with a front two, but unlike Southampton, don’t have as great of a need in front of goal. Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo performed the role well in 2021-22, whilst Yoane Wissa provided a useful understudy or third option in a front three. Nevertheless, Pukki perfectly personifies much of the same characteristics of Mbuemo, only providing an upgrade in front of goal. The Frenchman clearly underperformed in 2021-22 in front of the net, scoring just 4 goals from an xG of 9.7. This placed him in the bottom 1% of players in his position on non-penalty goals in 2021-22. With his expert finishing, Teemu Pukki on the other hand performed right at expectation, scoring 11 goals from an 11.5 xG. This would suit Brentford’s style of play, as the strikers hold the vast majority of responsibility for creating chances through link-up play between the pair of them. On top of all that, being Scandinavian and already having Finnish teammates in the side would allow Pukki to instantly feel at home in his new team.
BRIGHTONEmbed from Getty Images
Perpetually linked with every top level striker below their ninth-placed finish, Teemu Pukki provides an extraordinarily useful option to improve upon the Seagulls’ tally in front of goal. Brighton once again underperformed on xG for the second season in a row, scoring 42 from 46 expected goals in 2021-22. While this isn’t as vast an underperformance as their 2020-21 campaign (39 from 51.6), it does paint a picture of their striking need next season. Neal Maupay and Teemu Pukki would model as practically the exact same player, meaning Pukki would undoubtedly fit the style of play, even if he didn’t add any extra panache other than a greater eye for goal. His intelligent pressing would fit in well at one of the highest pressing teams in the league, and he’d be more than capable of playing either as the lone man up top or in a front two. Brighton are likely to go for someone younger if they are to upgrade in the centre-forward position, but Teemu Pukki would be an extraordinary value-buy should they fail to secure their main targets.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Any club would be wise to sign Teemu Pukki, who scored 11 goals in both of his Premier League campaigns. At 32 years of age, his time in the Premier League is likely finished. But that doesn’t mean it should be. At just €5 million, Pukki presents an absolute steal for any Premier League club looking to upgrade upon their centre-forward options – adding exceptional movement, intelligent pressing and a natural knack for scoring low-driven goals. If no Premier League teams are willing to make the sensible short-term signing to aid their 2022-23 endeavours, Teemu Pukki will be sure to tear it up in the EFL Championship instead, as Norwich look to yo-yo back into the Premier League.
So there it is! An analysis of what makes Teemu Pukki so remarkable, and the potential suitors should Premier League clubs be sensible enough to sign him in 2022-23. Be sure to check out more from this series below, and follow on social media @mastermindsite and @desmondrhys to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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