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Opinion

‘Genius’ Steve Bruce discovers Miguel Almiron best position only 2 years after Rafa Benitez did

8 months ago
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Miguel Almiron was Newcastle United’s clear man of the match on Saturday.

A typical full of running performance, the Paraguayan international scoring the second and third goals to ensure a 3-2 victory over Southampton.

Miguel Almiron turns 27 on Wednesday and has supposedly, now found his best position.

I was laughing my head off when I saw some of Steve Bruce’s mates in the media doing everything they could to actually give the NUFC Head Coach most of the credit for Almiron’s performance.

Astonishing, remarkable, audacious…that journalists would try and distort the reality like this.

Miguel Almiron was man of the match in The Mag’s collective interactive player ratings from fans for Saturday, with a rating of 9.4 out of 10.

Almiron was also the NUFC fans MOTM in the ratings for the defeat to Palace, second only to Callum Wilson in the Everton match, second only to Fabian Schar against Leeds, whilst NUFC top rated in the defeat at Villa.

The above is no surprise as Miguel Almiron is at last been allowed to play in his natural position, one of the furthest players up the pitch and allowed to run with the ball, going wherever he wants, up to a point.

The journalists say this is great management by Steve Bruce in recent games, some saying ‘genius’ in regard to now getting the best from the former Atlanta United star.

Incredible, it has taken Bruce 19 months to finally allow Newcastle to attack a little bit and somebody such as Miguel Almiron to play in his proper position. Steve Bruce for almost all of these past 19 months simply playing Almiron as an extra defender in his ultra defensive set up.

The journalists claiming over the top credit on behalf of Steve Bruce for Miguel Almiron playing so much better and more effective, are either very forgetful, or choosing not to remember.

When Miguel Almiron arrived at Newcastle United just over two years ago, he (Rafa) instantly changed the playing style, as at last he had some pace in his forward three to go with what Rondon and Perez offered.

Due to injury, Miguel Almiron only started nine Premier League games in that first NUFC season but his impact was instant on both results and the team’s playing style.

These stats are from BBC Sport on Miguel Almiron’s nine starts under Rafa Benitez.

They show Newcastle’s amount of possession and total shots:

Newcastle 2 Huddersfield 0 (54%, 29 shots)

Newcastle 2 Burnley 0 (54%, 13)

West Ham 2 Newcastle 0 (44%, 17)

Newcastle 3 Everton 2 (45%, 19)

Bournemouth 2 Newcastle 2 (51%, 12)

Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0 (29%, 3)

Newcastle 0 Crystal Palace 1 (54%, 18)

Leicester 0 Newcastle 1 (28%, 11)

Newcastle 3 Southampton 1 (43%, 15)

If you take away the two toughest matches, away at Arsenal and Leicester, you get these following average statistics for possession and number of shots.

An average of 49.3% possession and on average, 17.6 shots per match.

Even in that Leicester away game it was a classic Rafa Newcastle performance, the year before NUFC had won at Leicester 2-1 with similar minimal possession BUT still the Magpies were more dangerous and effective than their hosts. Despite 28% possession, Newcastle still had 11 shots, with as many on target (five) as Leicester and more corners  (three compared to two for the Foxes).

Making his first start for Newcastle, Rafa Benitez had Miguel Almiron instantly playing in a position high up the pitch and allowed to roam, with only 12 minutes gone an excellent NUFC move saw Almiron released behind the Huddersfield defence and they couldn’t catch him, the Paraguayan nonchalantly chipping the keeper, only to see it rebound back off the post. With a little luck he could have had a hat-trick on his first start, as Lossl in the Huddersfield goal made a brilliant save from Almiron and then a defender cleared one off the line with his keeper beaten.

Much was made of Miguel Almiron not getting any goals or assists in those opening nine starts BUT he totally changed the way Newcastle played and inspired them to wins, by playing high up the pitch and combining with Perez and Rondon.

This was seen in wins over the likes of Southampton, Huddersfield and Burnley, plus very effective in a slightly different role against Leicester when winning.

Maybe the best example though was when Miguel Almiron inspired Newcastle to recover from two down to Pickford and Everton, eventually winning 3-2. Despite drawing 2-2 at Bournemouth and losing at home to Palace, Newcastle were by far the better side in both games with Almiron key to the performances, having 18 shots and nine corners against Palace, then 12 shots and six corners away at Palace.

The big debate about Miguel Almiron playing so well in recent matches should all be focused on why on earth it took Steve Bruce over a year and a half to realise / accept the obvious. How Rafa Benitez had played the Paraguayan when he first arrived.

Miguel Almiron helping to inspire Newcastle United in Rafa Benitez’ final 16 games, to have the fifth best number of points and fifth highest number of goals in the Premier League in those last 16 PL matches of his time at St James Park.

There are so many Newcastle players who have regressed under Steve Bruce, so many played out of position, or played in formations / set ups that don’t get the best from them.

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