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Opinion

Allan Saint-Maximin conundrum revisited – Yet again

4 weeks ago
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Eddie Howe has been talking about Allan Saint-Maximin ahead of the rapidly approaching new season.

Unable so far to sign somebody on the right flank to complement ASM, once again a heavy weight of responsibility on the French winger to make things happen.

Allan Saint-Maximin was one of the very few players who didn’t show improvement under Eddie Howe last season.

Injury / illness causing him to miss a significant chunk of time after the turn of the year and then struggling for full fitness and form. Only in the very late stages of the season did we see ASM back to something like his best.

The win over Arsenal was by far I think the best Allan Saint-Maximin performance under Eddie Howe and possibly (certainly?) no coincidence that this coincided with a far more attacking plan than in most previous games. ASM generally getting the ball in far more advanced positions as Newcastle pressed the Gunners and dominated the match.  The winger causing all kinds of problems for Arsenal who were the ones playing for a Champions League spot, whilst Newcastle players were simply playing for pride, the fans, themselves…and a place in the team for the following (2022/23) season.

Eddie Howe on Allan Saint-Maximin ahead of the new 2022/23 season:

“We have worked really hard with Maxi during pre-season.

“I think he is in a really good place.

“He looks happy and he has trained well.

“He has delivered everything that we have asked him to deliver.

“We have pushed him physically and he has responded.

“So, I’m hoping for a very, very good season from him.

“My big message to him at the end of last season was that physically we needed to try and get more (out of him).

“And that is in every area of his game…

“More forward runs, getting in more goalscoring positions.

“Obviously he is devastating when one on one, so we need to get him the ball more, in better areas.

“However, the expectation on Maxi is that he has got to be able to deliver the physical effort that I want the team to deliver.

“So there has been a lot of work towards that and I am expecting a great season from him.”

The brutal truth is that whilst last season Allan Saint-Maximin could and should have done more, he was still comfortably the most productive Newcastle player in terms of direct goal involvements (see below).

ASM with 10 direct goal involvements (five goals and five assists), with Callum Wilson on eight and Joelinton next highest on six.

Over the past two seasons, Callum Wilson is top with 25 direct goals involvements, Allan Saint-Maximin next on 17, then Joelinton way back on 11. No wonder Eddie Howe is so keen to bring in better quality in attacking positions.

The reality is that the midfield and forward line desperately need to up their game in terms of creating and making goals if Newcastle United are to progress. Especially if no further significant signings are made.

Bruno Guimaraes showed previously never seen before goal potential (he only scored three goals in 70+ appearances for Lyon), when after joining Newcastle he had six direct goals involvements including five goals, so a lot could depend on the Brazilian being able to carry on as an NUFC goal threat.

Other than that, you are looking at just maybe Joe Willock managing to get some kind of regular goal threat. His eight goals on loan at NUFC in 2020/21 are increasingly looking a big anomaly. However, as his form improved in the second half of last season, despite only two goals (and no assists) the former Arsenal player was starting to get more regularly into goalscoring positions.

Whilst Chris Wood is expected to be used mainly as back-up for Callum Wilson, if you add his Burnley form to the two goals (and no assists) he got with Newcastle earlier this year, in the past two years he has 20 direct goal involvements, with 17 goals and three assists.

Newcastle United Direct goal involvements these last two seasons:

Jacob Murphy

2020/21 (5 direct goal involvements – Scored 2 and 3 assists)

2021/22 (3 direct goal involvements – Scored 1 and 2 assists)

Total of 8 direct goal involvements (3 goals and 5 assists) these past two years

Miguel Almiron

2020/21 (5 direct goal involvements – Scored 4 and 1 assist)

2021/22 (1 direct goal involvements – Scored 1 and 0 assists)

Total of 6 direct goal involvements (5 goals and 1 assist) these past two years

Jonjo Shelvey

2020/21 (4 direct goal involvements – Scored 1 and 3 assists)

2021/22 (3 direct goal involvements – Scored 2 and 1 assist)

Total of 7 direct goal involvements (3 goals and 4 assists) these past two years

Joe Willock

2020/21 (8 direct goal involvements – Scored 8 and 0 assists)

2021/22 (2 direct goal involvements – Scored 2 and 0 assists)

Total of 10 direct goal involvements (10 goals and 0 assists) these past two years

Ryan Fraser

2020/21 (2 direct goal involvements – Scored 0 and 2 assists)

2021/22 (5 direct goal involvements – Scored 2 and 3 assists)

Total of 7 direct goal involvements (2 goals and 5 assists) these past two years

Allan Saint-Maximin

2020/21 (7 direct goal involvements – Scored 3 and 4 assists)

2021/22 (10 direct goal involvements – Scored 5 and 5 assists)

Total of 17 direct goal involvements (8 goals and 9 assists) these past two years

Callum Wilson

2020/21 (17 direct goal involvements – Scored 12 and 5 assists)

2021/22 (8 direct goal involvements – Scored 8 and 0 assists)

Total of 25 direct goal involvements (20 goals and5  assists) these past two years

Joelinton

2020/21 (5 direct goal involvements – Scored 4 and 1 assist)

2021/22 (6 direct goal involvements – Scored 4 and 2 assists)

Total of 11 direct goal involvements (8 goals and 3 assists) these past two years

Sean Longstaff

2020/21 (1 direct goal involvements – Scored 0 and 1 assist)

2021/22 (2 direct goal involvements – Scored 1 and 1 assist)

Total of 3 direct goal involvements (1 goal and 2 assists) these past two years

Chris Wood

2020/21 (15 direct goal involvements – Scored 12 and 3 assists)

2021/22 (5 direct goal involvements – Scored 5 and 0 assists)

Total of 20 direct goal involvements (17 goals and 3 assists) these past two years (though 15 of the goals and all 3 assists were with Burnley)

If a better player could be brought in to play in a forward trio with Wilson and ASM, then clearly that would be a massive help.

However, even without that, I think surely we can expect more end product from Allan Saint-Maximin regardless. He has the best manager he’s ever played under (in my opinion), he has the best team of players around him that he has ever had (even without more signings).

Ironically, for a player who is seen as so unpredictable, Allan Saint-Maximin has been amazingly consistent these past five seasons when it comes to direct goal involvements in league matches, these first two seasons of stats with Nice in Ligue 1, then three seasons in the Premier League – ten (3 goals, 7 assists), nine (6 goals, 3 assists), seven (3 goals, 4 assists), seven (3 goals, 4 assists), ten (5 goals, 5 assists).

Between seven and ten direct goal involvements in every one of these past five seasons but now a big step forward is needed. I think that for Newcastle United to have the kind of season we all hope for, part of that will probably need ASM to up his end product to 15+ direct goal involvements next season in the league.

Given the right platform by Eddie Howe and his teammates, I think Allan Saint-Maximin can do it. Though as the head coach indicates in his quotes above, this will need complete focus and dedication from ASM.

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