I woke up on Sunday morning with the typical cotton mouth of someone who drank too much whiskey and too much beer in the dry climate that is Las Vegas, NV. I woke up, my dogs got up, they were way too excited and happy for me as I wince away with my headache and dehydration. Next thing I do? I turn my phone on, “Damn, that’s way to bright”. I lower the brightness and get into the Twitter app. The next thing I did is something that I wish I could do the morning after every Newcastle United match, watched Miggy Almiron, score his 1st goal for Newcastle in a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace. I’ve seen it at least one hundred times, and so have you, but that’s still not enough.
There were a lot of questions going into this match. How do we attack without ASM? Are we going to have Shelvey? Are we going to have Miggy? Who starts up top? Brucie had answers and some of them were surprising.
Jonjo was ready to go, and so was Miggy. The starting lineup: Dubravka. Schar, Fernandez, Lejeune, Manquillo, Hayden, Shelvey, Dummett, Almiron, Carroll, Joelinton. It was reported that during the week, NUFC were training in a 3-5-2 formation during the week and that's exactly what happened. Miggy and Hayden were behind Joelinton and Carroll and in front of Shelvey. Dummett as the wingback, Manquillo on the other side Lejeune left CB, Schar right CB, and Fernandez in the middle.
It was great to see Lejeune back. He is such a difference maker when he is in top form and adding a player like him makes our back line even more formidable. Think of that three, Fernandez, Schar, and Lejeune. You’d imagine there may not be better ball playing CBs in the prem.
Once the game got rolling things started to take shape, and we had an unfamiliar Newcastle performance. We were keeping possession and attacking. Creating chances left and right.
6 minutes in was the first chance where Almiron played a wonderful ball to put Hayden in the box behind Palace’s backline. Hayden tried to round Guaita, but falls over. If Hayden can manage to stay up for that, it would of been 1-0 NUFC.
Hayden was the interesting person to watch initially. It seems that in this formation, Bruce likes Hayden playing a way more important attacking role. He was way higher up the pitch than he usually is. Tough to tell if that would be the same if ASM was involved but in this match, it was Hayden playing a more advanced attacking role.
Almiron was also VERY lively in the 1st half. Joelinton also looked way more comfortable playing alongside Carroll. It seemed that the entire squad looked very good in this 3-5-2 formation.
Getting to less than 10 minutes before the half, Newcastle were still playing well. But avoiding the script we’ve seen far too often is giving up that goal right before the half. Thanks to Dubravka, that didn't happen. It started with a bad pass from Fernandez that led to a turnover. Benteke starts the counter and feeds it to Zaha on the right side of the box. Zaha quick hit the ball and Dubravka had to get low quickly to save this ball and push the ball away. Truely a vital save for NUFC. Once again in the 43rd minute, Milivojevic curled a 25 yard free-kick just past the nearside post. Dubravka dove for it but luckily it was just wide.
Half-time came in at 0-0. Newcastle played well. They seemed to know what they were doing in the 3-5-2, however we all would like to see them take more chances. My player of the first half was probably Hayden.
2nd half started and I started drinking more. It became pretty evident early on that this was going to be the same script of the Burnley match. It was a terrible pace, no one wanted to attack early on in the half and Newcastle had no desire to move forward. The first 15 minutes of the half seemed Newcastle were getting worse and worse. It was clearly time for a change.
64th minute sub. Hayden off for Sean Longstaff. Longstaff went straight into Hayden’s position, driving play and moving further up the pitch than we would normally see.
70 minutes in, things aren't looking good. We aren't moving forward at all, it's looking ugly. Then we all got to watch Longstaff and Joelinton run into each other as they both chased a ball that Carroll sent in.
Duby made yet ANOTHER big save. This one started with Ayew who sent in Benteke on the right hand side of the box. Fernandez did a good job forcing Benteke out wide which helped cut down the angle on his shot and Dubravka was able to make the save as the ball went out for a corner.
77th minute sub. Joelinton off for Gayle. Once again, the formation stayed the same. Gayle went alongside Carroll. It seemed like a desperate sub because Newcastle could not find anything going at all in the 2nd.
Then, the magic happened. The joy that we were about to experience as a fanbase no one knew was coming. The lad we love, The Paraguayan Protractor, the Atlanta United superstar, THAT smile, that amazing smile, Miguel Almiron scored his first goal for the club. A man that could make someone wake up from a hangover and write a story about him. He did it.
The ball came in from Schar on the right. Carroll raced to the ball and headed it back to Almiron who was all alone, waiting in the middle of the box, and with great technique, he fires his shot in the back of the net! GOAL! NEWCASTLE!!!! 1-0 TO THE TOON.
As soon as that shot went in, pandemonium ensued. Everyone in that stadium went crazy. Bruce ran down the touchline, Almiron ran to corner, took his shirt off, flung it in the air, and was mobbed by his teammates. The smiles on everyone’s face shows just how delighted everyone was for him.
From there, the noise cranked up, the played hunkered down to see this match through. With 3 minutes of added time, Bruce made his last sub. Paul Dummett off for DeAndre Yedlin. The team were able to comfortably see off 3 points. What a win for Newcastle United.
Stats and Things
- Newcastle are in 9th place in the Premier League. No one would of thought this was possible at the beginning of the year.
- Newcastle lost the xG (expected goal) margins for the match with Crystal Palace having .99xG to Newcastle’s .71
- As far as players go. Miguel Almiron led the team in xG with .56, which is great because he ended up with 1 aG (My own made up stat = Actual Goals) Paul Dummett led the team in xA (expected assists) at .19.
- Sunderland are still in League One
- Miguel Almiron scored his first goal for Newcastle. He is the 146th player to score for Newcastle in the Premier League.
- Whoscored’s top players. (I will post each players that had a whoscored rating of 7 or higher) Miguel Almiron (8.3), Florian Lejeune (7.75), Martin Dubravka (7.59), Fabian Schar (7.42), Paul Dummett (7.15), Jonjo Shelvey (7.13), Javier Manquillo (7.03), Andy Carroll (7.03)
- Even though we are currently in 9th place. fivethirtyeight predicts Newcastle will finish the season in 13th place after this win on 45 points. It is of note that they have Crystal Palace finishing 12th with 46 points.
“You can’t get carried away in the Premier League. We’ve got some really hard games coming up - that’s the Premier League - but we’ve given ourselves a good platform going into Christmas.
”We changed our formation for the third time this year and thought we’d put two at the top and see if we could cause them a few problems. To get a clean sheet, you need your goalkeeper to do well - he’s made two or three really good saves.”
On Miguel Almiron:
”I nearly did a Jose Mourinho, running down the line! Delighted for him, and all the hard work he’s put in.
”I think the crowd showed their appreciation for him. I think relief is the wrong word - we’re all just delighted for him.
”Since he came to the club in January he lit the place up with his pace, trickery and skills. Day in, day out, he works and works, but unfortunately he’s not been able to manage a goal. Today he’s got the winner and we’re all delighted for him.
”It took a long time, he’s been unfortunate on so many occasions. Today when it fell to him, it was a difficult chance, coming from behind him, and he’s managed to smash it in.
”He’s a great pro, a great lad, and he works really hard. When you’ve got a gem like that they deserve all the success I’m sure will find him.
”My goalkeeper made a few saves but I don’t think anyone can deny that Almiron deserved the winner.
”He’s a great pro, he works really hard, and when they work hard like that they deserve all the success they find.”
On Paul Dummett:
”He’s got a groin injury. We’ll see how he is. For Dummy to play ... we were struggling on that left side with (Jetro) Willems out.
”It was difficult for him, but you know how it is for him – he sticks at it, and never, ever lets anybody down.”