This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
When you’re going up against Manchester City, the last thing you want to be known for is being defensively fragile and open. Norwich’s return to the Premier League campaign has captured the imagination, with Daniel Farke’s side staying fully committed to playing an attacking brand of football.
Whilst they’ve been duly rewarded with six goals from their opening four games – only four sides have out-scored them – they have looked ropey at the back, possessing the worst defensive record in the league.
However, the Canaries could take solace from the fact City will be without star centre-back Aymeric Laporte. The Frenchman was forced off with a knee problem against Brighton, and that could mean Fernandinho or Kyle Walker play out of position. And all that means Nicolas Otamendi will likely be tasked with leading the back-line for the visitors.
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The Argentine will come up against the Premier League’s Player of the Month for August, Teemu Pukki, and the battle between the two could decide whether Norwich can register an improbable result against the champions.
Having scored five goals in four games already this season, Pukki has firmly taken the mantle of leading Norwich’s front-line this season.
The Finland international averages 3.5 shots per game, but it is interesting to note the kind of position he takes them from. The 29-year-old is a penalty box predator, and according to Understat, has only taken one of his 14 shots this season from outside the box.
Pukki does his best work inside the penalty area, and his goal against Liverpool in the opening game showed exactly the kind of penetrating runs he likes to make. Always playing on the edge of the opposition shoulder’s centre-back, the striker is liable to get caught offside – he averages one per game.
It will therefore be up to Otamendi to ensure he marshals what will be a new-look back-four for City, and either win more than the 0.7 offsides he has registered this season, or simply drop deeper.
One of the most startling contrasts is the average passes both have made this year. Otamendi’s 84 per game is more than eight times the number Pukki makes, and it will be up to the latter to press the Argentine into making sure he simply can’t dictate the game from the back.
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Pukki has shown more than enough this campaign to suggest that Otamendi will have to keep a wary eye on him, and if the 31-year-old doesn’t come with eyes in the back of his head on Saturday afternoon, the Canaries could spring a major surprise at Carrow Road.