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Championship review: Cardiff chaos; Archer a Middlesbrough coup; Pukki's Norwich & English football legacy

Teemu Pukki's impact with Norwich City must have us talking about the Finn's legacy, Rotherham were brilliant in beating Blackburn Rovers and Cardiff City are in chaos. All this and more from the latest round of the Championship...


Rotherham United

The early Saturday Championship kickoff saw a thoroughly noteworthy game at the New York Stadium, with Rotherham crushing Blackburn Rovers 4-0. Why noteworthy? Well, Rotherham have been struggling badly, their run of six points in the 12 games prior absolutely reeked of relegation. Blackburn, for all their quirky data, started the day in third and were surely favourites to grab league win number 15 of their season.

Hakeem Odoffin drilled home a brilliant first minute opener and Oli Rathbone absolutely leathered in the second off the underside of the crossbar. Shane Ferguson scored the third direct from a corner, with Connor Washington firing home a nicely worked fourth deep into stoppage time.

I don't want to take the gloss off a huge victory for the Millers, but I suspect even the most pro-Rotherham fan would admit they won't be seeing this every week. Those first three goals featured two absolute worldies and one direct from a corner, combined the three strikes had a xG of 0.14. An even crazier stat is that Rotherham only completed 68 passes during the entire match, registering just 23% possession.

Let me repeat myself, this was a brilliant win for Rotherham and they did a fabulous job of picking off Blackburn having taken an early lead, however I doubt the same circumstances will occur too many times during the remainder of the season. What they can take is huge confidence from such a winning margin and a fresh look to their back four with Sean Morrison and Leo Hjelde making their debuts.


Teemu Pukki (Norwich City)

When he finally leaves the division, it'll be interesting to see the legacy of Norwich's Teemu Pukki. I think we're probably getting to the point where his work at second tier level is surpassed by very few other players. There are the perennials like Billy Sharp and Jordan Rhodes with gigantic goal totals. There are the record breakers like Ivan Toney and Aleksandar Mitrovic, who look like they will play out the rest of their careers at the very top. Pukki is in the conversation with these guys and as a subjective aside, I don't think I've seen a more ice cool finisher since Kevin Phillips dominated at the beginning and end of his brilliant career.

Pukki's first Championship season in 2018/19 saw him score 29 goals as Daniel Farke's Norwich flew out of mid-table to a brilliant title win. The behind closed doors season of 2020/21 saw Norwich take another title and Pukki score another 26 goals. This season things look a little different at Norwich, there is no title charge and more pertinently no Emi Buendia, Pukki's outstanding wingman of the previous two campaigns.

All of this means David Wagner has been hired to replace the struggling Dean Smith, he debuted in the league at Preston on Saturday and it was no surprise to see the Finn stepping up for his new manager. North End were swept aside 4-0 and Pukki's two goals put him into double figures for the season. If you're counting that's 105 Championship starts and 65 goals for Pukki, 10 more this season and it'll be three 20 goal Championship seasons in a row. Norwich are into the extra years option on his contract and at 32 this may be his swan song, whatever transpires Pukki has been an exceptional Championship striker.


Cardiff Chaos

There was a lot happening on Saturday night following Championship round 27. Firstly it was a rare Saturday with all 12 Championship games taking place and nothing occurring on any other day across the weekend. Secondly it was a goal heavy few hours with no fewer than three Championship teams banging in four goals. Maybe it was a good time to deliver some bad news, if such a thing even exists.

The bad news was delivered to Cardiff City manager Mark Hudson. He saw his side concede a late equaliser to bottom of the table Wigan and then delivered a post match press conference before being given his marching orders by CEO Ken Choo. Only the inner circle will know what plans were in place, but if it was a case of 'lets see how today goes and make a decision' then that late Will Keane goal could potentially have been a killer blow for Hudson.

Regardless of the timing and reasoning, the Cardiff higher ups seem to have made a bit of a mess of their return to the Championship following relegation in 2019. Neil Warnock was replaced by Neil Harris in season one, with a play-off defeat as close as the Bluebirds have got to a Premier League return. Harris was replaced by Mick McCarthy the following season, then Steve Morison and now Mark Hudson have all come and gone.

It's ok to try and change something for the better if things aren't going to plan, but there comes a point where Cardiff will need to focus on why things aren't going to plan rather than constant changes. There will be no shortage of applications to take the job, but Championship survival will hinge on the right decision being made.


Cameron Archer (Middlesbrough on loan from Aston Villa)

I'll break from tradition slightly here to do this week's top loanee, because he didn't really do a hell of a lot this round. It was a 17 minute substitute cameo featuring only seven touches and three accurate passes, but the return of Cameron Archer to the Championship is surely worth a mention.

Archer was a big name on the loan circuit last season, landing at Preston North End and quickly banging in seven goals. Back to Aston Villa he went and, during Stevie Gerrard's ultimately unsuccessful run as manager, was dipped in for a handful of Premier League appearances during the first half of this season. I'm sure there were a few disappointed Championship clubs hoping they would be able to bring Archer in for the season, but come January and Villa's new boss Unai Emery, unlike Gerrard, was prepared to let Archer go out on loan.

It was Middlesbrough who swooped and here we are once again, expecting Archer to have a similar impact that he did at Preston in the second half of last season. Although these comparisons often come across as trite, it's not hard to argue that Archer's goal tally could be even better than it was last season. He is now older and presumably wiser, with those Premier League minutes a valuable commodity. Preston finished last season in the bottom half and Boro are currently all the way up in the play-offs and won't be expecting to drop out of them.

So this column is basically me saying, we're probably going to be talking about Cameron Archer as loanee of the week pretty soon, let's just get it out of the way now and see if this plays out in the manner I'm expecting it to!

Follow Benjamin Bloom on Twitter @BenjaminBloom

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