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Why Joelinton will become a success at Newcastle

Oli Trussler Jones May 4, 2020
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

In the 2018/19 season, Newcastle United’s Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez scored 23 league goals between them. In the summer, Perez left for Leicester and the Toon chose not to take up the £16 million option to buy Rondon.

To replace them, the Tyneside outfit signed Allan Saint-Maximin from Nice, who has endeared himself to the Geordie faithful. They also signed Brazilian striker Joelinton from Hoffenheim for £40 million. To say that move hasn’t worked out is the understatement of the season. The question is, what’s gone wrong and how can it be fixed?

All Joelinton’s attributes point to the fact he will never be a 20 goal a season striker for any club. His best strength is playing with his back to goal and using his skills as a creative centre forward.

For Hoffenheim last season, the powerful Brazilian managed 1.5 key passes and 1.7 dribbles per 90, according to WhoScored.Com. This season, the figures have dropped to 0.8 key passes and 1.2 dribbles.

Different systems

This worrying fall is down in no small part to the different systems employed by Steve Bruce at Newcastle and Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim. 

Bruce’s system has definitely stalled Joelinton’s development. For large sections of games he finds himself isolated in the final third, relying on the pace of Saint-Maximin and Almirón to drag the ball into an area where he can be useful.

The price tag placed on his shoulders was steep, and Newcastle have yet to see a return on their investment. Fans have turned on Joelinton, with some quick to judge him a £40 million flop.

For such a hefty price tag, the Geordie faithful will have expected the young forward to have been electrifying. It was always going to take time to adapt but that doesn’t take away from the fact he’s scored only one goal this season and none since August.

Attributes

Despite this, Joelinton has all the attributes to make it to the top of the game. He possesses pace and power but it’s his off-the-ball work that makes him stand out – in the right system.

He is excellent at dragging defenders out of position to create space for a strike partner to exploit. Playing as a lone striker, however, he can’t use this element of his game.

At Hoffenheim he played as a second striker, usually alongside Andrej Kramaric or Ishak Belfodil – both much better goalscorers. They scored 33 goals between them in the Bundesliga during the 2018/19 season. Joelinton could become a successful player resembling another former Hoffenheim Brazilian forward – Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino.

Photo by Visionhaus

Strike partners

The question remains, how can Newcastle get the best out of Joelinton? The club definitely needs to sign another centre forward – one more in the mould of a traditional goalscorer.

If Newcastle are willing to spend about the same figure they paid for Joelinton, they could get some fantastic goalscorers for their money.

One option would be Duván Zapata, of Atalanta. About £35 million should be enough to purchase the Colombian hitman but, at 29, he would be a short-term fix.

One intriguing option would be the return of former Newcastle forward Aleksandar Mitrovic. He would likely cost a similar figure having scored 23 goals for Fulham in the Championship this season. 

Best formation

Mitrovic would be the perfect foil for Joelinton, scoring the goals Newcastle lack at the minute. The best way for Newcastle to operate would be using a standard 4-4-2, with Joelinton dropping off the Serbian frontman.

On the wings, Saint-Maximin and Almirón would provide fantastic width and pace. The middle of the park could be locked down by two hard-working midfielders in Sean and Matty Longstaff.

At the back, Fabian Schär appears every inch a top-six defender, while club captain Jamal Lascelles plays with an assurance way beyond his years. The experience of Danny Rose and a rejuvenated Javier Manquillo appear solid full-back options, with plenty of cover from Emil Krafth, DeAndre Yedlin and Jetro Willems.

Between the posts, Martin Dubravka has been excellent since his move from Sparta Prague, while Freddie Woodman has shown great promise on loan at Swansea this season. 

Grinding out results

Newcastle are lacking in one other area at the minute. Bruce was always a strange appointment but he has answered his critics by grinding out results.

However, his style is pragmatic beyond belief and is draining the life out of creative talent such as Saint-Maximin, Almirón and Joelinton. With a manager such as Brendan Rodgers or Eddie Howe managing Joelinton, his potential could be fully unlocked. 

For Joelinton to work out at Newcastle United, something has to give. Given Bruce was an unpopular appointment and Joelinton cost £40 million, it is clear to see who will leave Tyneside first, regardless of whether the takeover goes through. 

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