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Opinion

Joe Willock walks into toxic situation at Newcastle United and some unrealistic expectations

4 weeks ago
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Joe Willock is the focus of a lot of attention from Newcastle United fans.

No wonder, when he was the only signing made in the 2021 January transfer window.

The NUFC supporters desperate to see better quality players added, even if only on loan, to improve what we have seen out on the pitch so far this season.

Quite incredible really though just how accepting Newcastle fans have generally been, with the club’s refusal to address a lot of pretty serious issues in the squad.

You really have to worry just what would happen if Callum Wilson got injured and maybe we should really be worrying already at the fact that Wilson is starting every single game, weekend then midweek, then weekend then midweek. The amount of work he gets through in his lonely role has been exceptional.

Though not as exceptional as the sheer proportion of goals the striker has been directly involved in this season. Newcastle United have scored only 22 Premier League goals now and Callum Wilson has had direct involvement in over 68% of them, scoring 10 and now on five assists after laying that one on for Shelvey last night.

As well as no alternative goalscorer (and goal maker!) if Wilson gets injured, Lewis was back to his normal against Palace, after having shown up a little better at Everton. Indeed, the whole defence is creaking alarmingly and Lascelles and Fernandez are out now for an unknown amount of time, yet no strengthening of the defence in this just closed transfer window.

Only six Premier League clubs conceded less than Newcastle United in both 2017/18 and 2018/19 after Rafa Benitez moulded a lot of average defenders into such a tight unit. Steve Bruce reduced that to the seventh worst in terms of conceding goals last season, despite Dubravka’s heroics. Now this season, despite Darlow’s heroics, only West Brom and Palace have conceded more than Newcastle United. How worrying is that?

Apart from that early opening goal last night, Jonjo Shelvey was back to his usual self, pointlessly dropping back to pick up five yard passes from defenders and taking absolutely zero responsibility in terms of trying to prise open the Palace defence in that second-half. Guita in the Palace goal didn’t have a serious save to make after the break.

No point of course looking to Hendrick to take responsibility either, he is rarely even seen as he ghosts about the pitch, then when he is spotted, you will be lucky to even see a forward pass, never mind looking at him to actually spark anything.

Midfield is of course the one area Newcastle United have addressed in this most recent window, bringing Joe Willock in. Best of luck to him of course but it does look like Newcastle have restricted themselves to the very cheapest option. Reading the comments from Arsenal fans on Joe Willock is worrying and how West Brom end up with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, shows just how much further the Baggies were prepared to push the boat out compared to Mike Ashley’s Newcastle.

Maitland-Niles looks a really good player, 39 Premier League starts for Arsenal and has already played for England five times.

Yet we then have Newcastle fans who think that Joe Willock is going to walk in and instantly get the team playing far better football.

You might think that improving Newcastle’s midfield won’t exactly be difficult but for a 21 year old who has done so little so far in the Premier League, there are massive risks involved. Only 12 Premier League starts so far for Joe Willock and Arsenal have only actually won four of them, losing six and drawing the other two.

I’m not of course claiming Joe Willock was the primary reason for only four wins in twelve games but even with far better players around him than he will find at Newcastle United, he hasn’t exactly excelled. Indeed, in over 20 hours (1,224 minutes) of Premier League football, Joe Willock has only one goal and one assist to his name.

Throwing him into a team that is managed by Steve Bruce and which has lost ten and drawn two of their last thirteen matches, is a massive ask.

Southampton on Saturday is now looking massive, a game that Newcastle United have to win, especially when you look ahead.

Will Steve Bruce put Joe Willock straight in? The problem comes that if he doesn’t, the next two matches are away at Chelsea and Man Utd, very difficult to start playing in this NUFC side in those games.

I think the bottom line is that sadly, Mike Ashley refused to allow any signings to be made in January that would have almost certainly made Newcastle a better team.

Instead, we do have to overwhelmingly rely on the same players who have put together this horrendous thirteen match run of abysmal form.

Anything that Joe Willock might be able to add, has to be seen simply as a bonus. Here’s hoping.

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