We’re all grown-ups here. We can hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. Let’s try it with Norwich City forward Teemu Pukki.
First, the Finn is converting shots into goals at a wholly unsustainable rate. He is not going to score 250% of his expected goals this season. Even with this early overperformance in the bank, he is probably, statistically speaking, not going to score more than three more goals than expected.
Second, Teemu Pukki’s underlying numbers, while less flashy than his goal tally, are…good, actually?
Through four Premier League matches, 11 players have tallied higher xG/90 rates while playing more than 90 minutes. They are, in descending order: Sébastien Haller, Javier Hernandez, Neal Maupay, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Jordan Ayew, Bernardo Silva, Roberto Firmino, Tammy Abraham, and Ashley Barnes. The Arsenal pair of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang are just behind Pukki. This is a small sample size, some of these names won’t top a season-ending list (Hernandez isn’t even in the league anymore), but it’s encouraging.
Indeed, Pukki’s overall profile is quite encouraging.
On top of the goalscoring, Pukki’s doing a good job of holding on to the ball and getting shots. His dribbling and assists suggest he can be useful even when his conversion rate comes back down to earth.
Most importantly, he’s an important part of manager Daniel Farke’s pressing system:
Can any of this last? Pukki is 29 and coming off a good season in the Championship and four years before that in the Danish top flight. Players like this aren’t famous for making the jump to the Premier League, but it can happen. (See: Ashley Barnes, just ahead of Pukki on the xG/90 list.) The bigger concern may be that Norwich, while fun and decent going forward, are a defensive mess. If Farke is eventually moved to tighten things up, Pukki’s attacking output could suffer.
But the early signs are promising enough. Norwich have played West Ham, Chelsea, Newcastle, and Liverpool. This is a small sample, but it’s not an outrageously easy run of games (Newcastle possibly notwithstanding.) Even if Teemu Pukki regressed to the levels suggested by his expected goals numbers, he would be more than enough. And even if his underlying numbers come down a bit, he would still be enough. Dayenu!