O sol estava alto e brilhando nos céus de Norwich. O tempo quente chegou cedo no Reino Unido. E trouxe consigo uma erupção de essência brasileira. Banho de sol. Sol nos abençoe.
Newcastle United just bagged their fourth consecutive victory and are sitting 9th in the Premier League table as I’m typing these letters possessed by an evil Brazilian madman. It’s time to pour some quick reactions about what went down at Carrow Road earlier today.
Let’s get it poppin’.
Three Quick Thoughts
1. Joelinton is a bonafide goalscoring midfielder
It’s been almost three seasons since the Magpies bought Joelinton from German side Hoffenheim. He joined the Gordie Army for a sky-high €40M fee back in time for the 2019-20 season after dumping eight, eight, and seven goals in Austria (loaned the first two years) and Germany (his last one before the move) the three seasons prior to his arrival in Newcastle upon Tyne. Good, not great. But the main reasoning for the price paid and Joelinton's acquisition was surely the goalscoring. Or was it? Realistically, all of us—including Newcastle’s board—might have been wrong from day one.
Joelinton was a forward. Don’t overthink it. But his evolution has been wonderful to witness. JoJo has blossomed into a pretty complete football player. He might not carry a bag of goals with him but he’s got a very rangy toolbox. Joelinton started 18 games in a forward position last year to just five in the midfield line. This year: six starts in the opponent’s area compared to 19 in the middle of the park. The results couldn’t be better. JoJo is passing the ball more times, more accurately, for more distance, and he’s racking up progressive yards (completed passes traveling forward) with those passes. If this man is a forward masquerading as a midfielder, or the other way around with the interchangeable implications that means, he can keep combining his maestro touch with his phenomenal goalscoring (tell Norwich) and I’d be pretty pleased with the money invested in the then 22-year-old Brazilian.
2. Is there anything Bruno can’t do right?
Speaking of Brazilians. Speaking of youngsters. Speaking of huge transfer fees... What about Bruno walking the path Joelinton paved for the newcomer years ago? Sounds stupid, probably is. What I know for a fact is not stupid is this man's all-around greatness. See, Bruno landed in England less than four months ago. He warmed the bench for a while because you know how the weather is around these places. Got hot enough to be deployed on the pitch from the ref’s opening whistle. Hit the ground running. Never looked back.
Newcastle are boasting a 9-3-1 record when Bruno plays. The record reads 5-2 with Bruno as a starter. He’s manned one of the three center-midfield positions used by Eddie Howe in four consecutive games while starting seven of the last eight games he’s played with Newcastle. He’s scored four goals (tied with Joelinton for the third-most among teammates) and he also assisted Miguel Almirón in the Paraguayan game-winning sublime score against Crystal Palace earlier this week. He is completing passes at an 86% clip, giving 0.7 key passes per game, intercepting 0.5 balls a pop, and getting 2.2 successful tackles per game while only getting dribbled-past 1.1 times a match (he’s also pulling off 1.2 dribbles per game himself, mind you.) Doesn’t foul, gets fouled, gains more duels than he losses, etc, etc... I don't think they ever taught Guima the meaning of “making a mess”.
3. Rawness Index ft. Allan Saint-Maximin & Joe Willock
There is something about these two young attackers that strikes me as a very similar yet a very different trait at the same time: how raw their games look on the pitch. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not bad! Saint’Ximin is barely 25 years old and Joe Willock has yet to turn 22. There is time to progress in their development paths, and that’s something both men have on their sides for now. But at the same time, there is a clear difference between how ASM and Joe are crafting their developmental curves and the point they’re currently at.
I love ASM. He’s an absolute whirlpool when in possession of the ball. He can do anything and everything, even dancing on a football pitch, which is far from a joke. The problem with ASM is that sometimes it feels like he tries too hard, he just wants to do too much when simpler, more efficient solutions are available around him. I’m all in for style over substance, but sometimes it’s really frustrating to watch ASM getting lost dribbling his shadow. Keep it up, but maximize it.
I want to believe in Joe Willock. I believe in Joe Willock. Of course, the club paid big bucks to get him for good after a successful loan spell last year in which he scored eight goals in only 14 matches. Regression was surely coming, but dumping a goal every 990+ minutes this season is middling at best. Willock is doing it all over the pitch (box-to-box for the techies) and not deployed as a true striker (something he’s not) though he’s got a clear projection forward on the pitch and an offensive edge to his game. He’s already a visionary, but not yet an executioner. Keyword: yet. The ideas are there, they often pop up in his brain at a marvelous pace, but when it comes to foot-eye coordination things have to improve. Again, 22 years old. The future is all for Willock’s taking.
Game Recap and Seahorse Awards coming tomorrow.
Howay the Lads!