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Opinion

‘This decides 4 of Newcastle United front 6 – The other 2 have to be exceptional at other things’

2 weeks ago
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Which of the current Newcastle United players are up to the job?

That is the question NUFC fans are asking themselves ahead of next season.

Which Newcastle United players can be relied on to progress the team?

The January 2022 transfer window was heavily focused on the defence, producing a staggering improvement.

Assuming Matt Targett’s loan deal is converted to permanent, then he, Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn will surely form three of the back four. Great news that Fabian Schar has signed a new two year contract and he can be a big asset still, however, I think every chance that another new centre-back will arrive as first choice in the summer to give a totally new defence, compared to what was there before January 2022.

With the help of better players and better coaching, since 19 December 2021, only once in eighteen matches have Newcastle United let in more than one goal in a match. Quite incredible compared to the shambles that had developed under Steve Bruce.

Now just imagine if the same kind of improvement could be found at the other end of the pitch…

During the Mike Ashley era, only twice have Newcastle United scored more than 46 goals in a Premier League season.

The most recent of the two was 2011/12, when Newcastle scored 56 goals and ended up finishing fifth in the Premier League. The goalscoring that season was massively reliant on four players creating and scoring the goals, 38 of the 56 PL goals were scored by Ba (16), Cisse (13), Ben Arfa (5) and Cabaye (4), whilst in reality you should also include the goals from Leon Best (4) who played quite a bit before Cisse arrived in the February, adding Best’s goals and the five of them scored 42 of the 56 goals.

To be honest though, the pattern had already been set the previous season under Chris Hughton, when he took his promoted side and fashioned a real attacking threat in the Premier League, when 56 goals were also scored, just like the following season when Newcastle ended up fifth. In the 2010/11 PL season, you had Nolan (12), Carroll (11), Shola (6), Best (6), Lovenkrands (6) scoring 41 of the 56 goals that season.

What I think is key, is that once you get beyond the defence, you have to get the balance right if you want to progress, You have to create and score goals if you want to be successful.

So for me, at least four of the Newcastle United front six have to be heavily involved in creating and scoring goals, then you have two places left for a pair who have to be exceptional at other things, to justify a place in the team.

In both of those seasons (2010/11 and 2011/12) where Newcastle United scored 56 PL goals each time, we had two of the most forward six who indeed had other excellent other attributes. Cheick Tiote and Jonas Gutierrez had incredible workrates and absolutely complemented those others in the team, such as Cabaye, Nolan, Ben Arfa and Carroll. Tiote and Gutierrez did the unselfish work that allowed others to flourish.

Which brings us to now.

This is the up to date list of Newcastle United direct goal involvements in the Premier League 2021/22:

9 Allan Saint-Maximin (5 goals and 4 assists) 2572 minutes – 286 minutes per goal involvement

6 Callum Wilson (6 goals and 0 assists) 1187 minutes – 198 minutes per goal involvement

5 Bruno Guimaraes (4 goals and 1 assist) 762 minutes – 152 minutes per goal involvement

5 Ryan Fraser (2 goals and 3 assists) 1456 minutes – 291 minutes per goal involvement

5 Joelinton (4 goals and 1 assist) 2368 minutes – 474 minutes per goal involvement

4 Fabian Schar (2 goals and 2 assists)

3 Javier Manquillo (1 goal and 2 assists)

3 Jonjo Shelvey (2 goals and 1 assist) 1985 minutes – 662 minutes per goal involvement

3 Jacob Murphy (1 goal and 2 assists) 1354 minutes – 451 minutes per goal involvement

2 Kieran Trippier (2 goals and 0 assists)

2 Chris Wood (2 goals and 0 assists) 1242 minutes – 621 minutes per goal involvement

2 Joe Willock (2 goals and 0 assists) 2047 minutes – 1023 minutes per goal involvement

2 Matt Ritchie (0 goals and 2 assists) 1333 minutes – 666 minutes per goal involvement

2 Sean Longstaff (1 goal and 1 assist) 1188 minutes – 594 minutes per goal involvement

1 Miguel Almiron (1 goal) 1474 minutes – 1474 minutes per goal involvement

1 Isaac Hayden (1 goal) 1003 minutes – 1003 minutes per goal involvement

1 Dan Burn (assist), Emil Krafth (assist), Jamaal Lascelles (goal), Jeff Hendrick (goal), Ciaran Clark (assist)

With 40 goals so far in 35 Premier League matches, I think safe to assume we are looking at yet another season where Newcastle United finish on 46 goals or less, rather than 56 or more.

I don’t think anybody needs convincing that the balance is wrong at the moment, maybe not enough players who can do the unselfish work at a high enough level and certainly not enough who can produce the creativity and goals.

If you accept we need at least four of the most forward six to be creative / scoring players, then who are the candidates currently?

I think Callum Wilson is a contender and with 18 Premier League goals so far for Newcastle United, from 37 starts, he can produce. However, the big question always, is can he stay free of injuries, as he has only been able to start half of NUFC’s 73 PL matches since signing.

ASM is another candidate if he can sort himself out and get some consistency, whilst Ryan Fraser was running into form before injury and is maybe an outside bet if thinking of who is good enough to be first choice eleven next season.

When it comes to doing the more unselfish work, Joelinton is a contender for one of the two maximum places in the team. Whilst an easy choice is Bruno Guimaraes. I do hope his NUFC goal involvement can continue but this hasn’t been his key strength in the past. In 71 appearances for Lyon, Bruno only scored three goals, whilst he only registered four assists in Ligue 1 matches, making seven direct goal involvements in the French league. He already has five direct goal involvements in only eight Premier League starts and has pretty much admitted, nobody is more surprised about this than him.

However, I think we have to see Bruno’s goals and creativity as a bonus and look to have four others in that front six who can deliver on that front, whilst he and Joelinton potentially are the latter day Cheick Tiote and Jonas Gutierrez.

I big well done to everybody who has contributed to Newcastle United climbing away from the relegation zone but time to move on I think. Some will obviously stay as squad members but I honestly can’t see the likes of Shelvey, Willock, Wood, Longstaff, Murphy, Ritchie, Hayden and Almiron having done enough to persuade Eddie Howe that they fit in either category. Neither high enough quality as scorers and creators, nor for exceptional defensive and other attributes that go more unseen.

I know a lot of ifs and buts…however, if Dubravka keeps up his current form and low number of goals conceded, if Targett is made permanent and another quality central defender added in the summer, then if a good enough quality quartet of creative / attacking players can be put together to go with Bruno and Joelinton, Newcastle United could be very much in business.

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