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Opinion

The problem isn’t Joelinton – The problem was the Joelinton plan

10 months ago
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Joelinton has been making headlines ever since he was first linked with a move to Newcastle United.

The Brazilian arriving on 22 July 2019 with the responsibility of the number nine shirt and being the main hope for goals this season.

There was also the small matter of the fact that his transfer fee was said to be £40m.

A new club record and twice what had been paid for Miguel Almiron in January 2019 and around three times as much as Mike Ashley had allowed to be spent on any other player in the previous 12 years.

Only four days after Joelinton was unveiled as a United player, Mike Ashley released his infamous PR statement through The Mail.

Amongst the many bizarre and ridiculous claims/statements he made, was about the Joelinton signing.

Mike Ashley ridiculing Rafa Benitez because when he was manager, the Spaniard had refused to agree to the signing of Joelinton in February 2019, after Ashley and his people had set the deal up. Rafa wanting to bring in other players who he felt would be better for the team and believing Ashley’s valuation (£43m) of the then Hoffenheim forward was ludicrous.

Mike Ashley went on to claim that he had told Rafa that he personally would pay £23m of the transfer fee out of his own pocket and that he (Rafa) could still bring in Salomon Rondon as well, if he agreed to the signing of Joelinton.

So many things there that no doubt Rafa Benitez didn’t believe, as is no doubt the case with any realistic Newcastle fan. Ashley of course never even allowing a bid to be made for Rondon, whilst as for the commitment of the NUFC owner in paying £23m of the Joelinton transfer fee himself, that has never been mentioned since…

The thing is with Joelinton, he isn’t the problem and has never has been.

It is the Joelinton plan that is the problem.

As in, there never was a plan…

Mike Ashley, for whatever reason, decided that at all costs Newcastle United were signing this player and they were going to pay £40m+ for him, no matter what anybody else said, especially Rafa Benitez.

If Mike Ashley had genuinely wanted Rafa Benitez to stay and genuinely gave him the assurances that he needed (namely, commitments to long-term investment in the infrastructure (training complex, Academy etc) and first team squad, with the freedom to operate as he (Rafa) saw fit, using his decades of experience/expertise in the top echelons of European football), then if Rafa had stayed at St James Park, he may well have agreed to sign Joelinton.

However, it would only have been as part of a properly structured plan, as to what the squad/team needed, what funds were available, which other positions needed strengthening, which players were leaving, where Joelinton would fit in his (Rafa’s team).

Instead, we had the Mike Ashley plan.

Buy Joelinton whatever the cost or what Newcastle United actually needed, spend the vast majority of the budget (Lee Charnley said there was £61m plus cash from player sales available to spend for this season) on this player regardless of what else the team/squad needed.

Appoint a patsy head coach from the lower divisions who would agree to take the job under any conditions, especially agreeing to only have authority to train and pick the team, with no say on transfers in and out.

Then simply hand over Joelinton to Steve Bruce and say get on with it.

How could anything possibly go wrong…

Newcastle United had the fewest goalscorers of any Premier League team, Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon were the only two reliable goalscorers and Mike Ashley made no attempt to keep either. The problem compounded by Newcastle having no other strikers, wingers or midfielders who could be expected to score any reasonable amount of goals.

Joelinton had never scored more than eight goals in a league season and that was in the lowly Austrian League. His only season in a decent league had been in the 2018/19 Bundesliga where he played out wide as a supporting attacking player, not goalscoring centre-forward.

Mike Ashley handed Joelinton over to Steve Bruce and told him here’s your main goalscorer, that was the only plan.

To make matters worse, Ashley insisted on Andy Carroll being the other replacement for Perez and Rondon. That is Andy Carroll who hasn’t been fit for years and who in these first 23 games of the 2019/20 season has predictably only managed to start four matches and hasn’t even had a serious shot on goal so far, never mind score a goal.

Joelinton has actually looked quite decent in some ways, despite the shocking negative tactics from Steve Bruce that have left the striker totally isolated most of the time, compounding the problem of signing the Brazilian and expecting him to suddenly be a goalscorer.

The stats show that Joelinton has done some decent stuff away from goal in a very defensive set-up where he gets minimal help. He is the player most involved in moves that end up with a shot on goal, he is the NUFC player with the most successful dribbles, he has created more chances for teammates than any other Newcastle player, he has won an impressive percentage of heading duels and so on.

If Joelinton has arrived as part of  a properly structured plan where he was brought in to a system that would get the best out of him and play to his strengths, then who knows….

Instead, Mike Ashley has catapulted the now 23 year old into a massive mess of the owner’s own creation.

The mess we see today is all down to Mike Ashley and his cunning ‘plan’, Joelinton is not the one to blame.

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