Norwich City defender Christoph Zimmermann says the availability of Teemu Pukki for this weekend’s Premier League game against AFC Bournemouth will be pivotal to fighting for three points.
City’s top scorer missed last weekend’s 4-0 defeat to Manchester United with a hamstring injury but has spent this week back in training to prepare for Saturday’s match.
“No-one can deny Teemu’s importance and the role he has played for our team,” Zimmermann said. “He’s a talisman for us. You know when he’s on the pitch he will make things happen. He’s scored the most goals, leads from the front and is always pressing to make the way we want to play possible. It’s always good to see him back in training. He looks fit and will hopefully be able to help us get three points.”
Three points have been hard to come by for the Canaries in recent weeks, in no small part due to their failure to hold onto leads after going ahead, a point Zimmermann is fully aware of.
“It’s positive that we can score, but we need to learn how to defend the lead,” he added. “We were in the lead for a long time against Crystal Palace and took it twice against Tottenham Hotspur. When you don’t go on to win those games, they feel like points that are missing.
“We have to be self-critical; it’s not always unlucky or that fate is against us. We need to improve and value the lead more to get the result.”
Should Norwich beat the Cherries, it would be a step in the right direction in the quest to stay in the Premier League, and Zimmermann believes there’s no reason City can’t pull off another of the division’s ‘great escapes.’
“Sunderland did it in 2014 and Leicester City did it in 2015,” he noted. “We all know what happened the season afterwards, not that I’m saying we’ll be favourites for the title next season if we stay in the league!
“Those sides have shown it’s possible. They found the moment to turn it around. We can’t just say we’ve been playing well and were unlucky not to get the right results. Watford have won 13 points from the last six games, so they’ve had an incredible turnaround. They changed the manager, whereas Southampton didn’t but have been doing well too.
“It might be that you just need that one win to bring belief that we can win games. We’re not getting out of the drop zone by just drawing games. We’ve only won three this season, so we need to improve our winning rate and our rate of winning games when in the lead.”
Asked for a message to City supporters on the business end of the campaign, Zimmermann opted for a level-headed approach.
“You can’t reassure things, and I’m not just saying that because we’re in the worst position,” he said. “Last season, we were in the best position and there was no guarantee we’d see it out until the end. It’s not in my nature to say something will work 100 percent.
“All we know is results need to come and we can’t delay that because sooner or later the season will be over. The manager’s calmness and objectivity about the games was what helped us last season to find solutions. That will be key for this period as well.”