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Behind the scenes problems made public for Newcastle United striker

1 year ago

Almost a season and a half after signing for NUFC, Newcastle fans still don’t really know what to make of Yoshinori Muto.

Unlike strikers brought in from less competitive leagues, it was fair to assume we would see at least a certain level of return for the Japanese striker arriving from Mainz.

With 20 goals in 48 Bundesliga starts (plus 18 appearances off the bench), it suggested that Yoshinori Muto would be good for at least a respectable number of goals but it just hasn’t happened for him.

Only six starts in the 51 Premier League matches since he arrived, opportunities have been very limited but he hasn’t exactly grabbed them with both hands when given the chance.

Easily his best and most productive game so far, was the 78 minutes he played at Old Trafford last season.

With Rondon injured and Joselu left on the bench, Rafa Benitez went for a very different and more mobile line-up. They ran Man Utd ragged in the first half and could and should have been out of sight at half-time.

Muto, Perez and Kenedy were excellent, their pace and movement causing the home side all kinds of problems, Kenedy and Yoshinori Muto both scoring in the first 10 minutes and if VAR had been in place it would have pretty much guaranteed a 3-0 half-time lead as the officials somehow missed a blatant handball from Shelvey’s free-kick that would have given a penalty.

However, other chances were also missed, Muto should have scored with a header from only six yards out but somehow hit the keeper, what might have been. The Man Utd pressure finally telling as a tired Newcastle collapsed and lost

Interesting that it is very likely that none of the front six that played at Old Trafford 13 months ago are likely to play against Man City, as well as Yoshinori Muto, Kenedy and Perez, Ritchie will be missing injured, Diame has left and Shelvey is likely to be dropped for Sean Longstaff.

Muto might wonder why he has been given only one Premier League start (first half at Leicester in the 5-0) and only 101 minutes in total, especially given that he has scored as many goals this season (one against Leicester in the League Cup) as Joelinton, Saint-Maximin and Almiron have scored between them.

However, an interesting piece in The Athletic on Thursday has shed a bit of light on problems Yoshinori Muto has experienced behind the scenes.

Journalist Chris Waugh relating this exchange after the defeat at Aston Villa, in Steve Bruce’s press conference:

A Japanese journalist unexpectedly asked, “What is the situation with Yoshi, who hasn’t been involved for three matches in a row?”

Bruce, having been unable to hear the softly-spoken reporter inside the auditorium, replied, “Who are you talking about there, sorry?”

“Yoshi,” the journalist repeated.

“Oh, Muto?” Bruce said, once he realised who the question was concerning.

“Well, at the moment we’ve got the three up top, and we’ve got Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle. They’re in front of him at the moment, but he’s just got to keep working away, and maybe hope for his chance.”

Not even making the squad half the time this season, Waugh reveals Yoshinori Muto experienced all kinds of problems in his first year at the club.

Maybe the biggest one was communication. The Japanese striker putting the hours in but failing to get a good grasp of English, meaning he struggled to understand both teammates and manager. The man from The Athletic saying that Rafa Benitez lost patience, giving Muto detailed instructions on what he wanted him to do and the striker indicating that he had taken it all in, only for that not to be shown on the pitch…

Which kind if fits in with what we have seen, a striker who does a lot of running but to little effect, not quite sure whether they use the term ‘headless chicken’ in Japan?

Another problem related is with his family, Muto’s wife living in Japan last season and giving birth to their daughter, whilst he was living on Tyneside. He also picked up an injury last season and was away in the middle of the season when Japan played in the Asian Cup.

The report says the forward was desperate to give it his best shot this season, arriving early for pre-season and putting in extra hours to improve his English. Only to then see Joelinton, Carroll and Saint-Maximin arrive in the final weeks of the transfer window and be placed ahead of him. Muto of course having scored the only goal in the pre-season tournament in China, when Newcastle beat West Ham 1-0.

Chris Waugh perfectly sums up Yoshinori Muto and his career so far: ‘The forward has pace and always looks busy when he comes on, but to little material effect. Despite offering energy, Muto averages just 38.3 touches per 90 minutes, 1.02 shots per 90 minutes, and 18.79 passes per 90 minutes in his Premier League career.’

Harking back to his arrival, Waugh points to the problems faced by Rafa Benitez when bringing in Muto, saying that the Japanese striker wasn’t near the top of his list but with Mike Ashley refusing to allow realistic spending, it was the best he could do when buying a Premier League striker for under £10m – a situation that was repeating 12 months earlier when Rafa brought in Joselu for £5m.

The Spaniard forced to do his best to get by with signings that he knew weren’t the proper answer, you just wonder what he would have done if given the chance to spend the £40m that went on Joelinton this summer?


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