Another weekend in the books. Newcastle came close to stopping Liverpool, but the lads could do nothing at all to prevent C2ty from running them out of Manchester on Sunday. Brutal, hard-to-stomach defeat with the only positive that everybody was pretty much expecting the predicted outcome to approach the final 5-0 shown in the scoreboard by the final whistle.
Here are your Top-3 players of Match Day 36, along with some quotes from the very own protagonists of the weekend.
I know some folks have Bruno as the bonafide better player on yesterday's dominant performance. I get it, I acknowledge it, and I’m pretty pleased if that’s the objective case. I wanted to highlight Joelinton’s effort, though, because what this man has been able to do under Eddie Howe’s guidance is just out of this world. Joelinton, who was brought to Tyneside to roam the opposition’s area and bag goals in bunches, did it as a holding midfielder yesterday. On alternating duties at the DM/pivot position with Bruno and Sean Longstaff, Joelinton didn’t leave even one point unchecked. Joelinton’s flexibility was on full display with the forward-bar-midfielder recovering balls, running down and up the pitch, losing Xhaka and Elneny with his moves between the lines, and doing everything with high composure and perfection. If Joelinton is not the discovery of the season and the most improved player under Howe’s short tenure at the helm of United, I don’t even know.
What to say about Bruno that we have not already mentioned in prior matches? He completed 82% of the passes he attempted, won eight of the 11 duels he got caught into, was good for a tackle three times, and put the cherry on top of an exceptional performance by scoring Newcastle’s second goal and wrapping things up with five minutes to go. To add something different, I observed and believe the balance between Bruno and Joelinton in the Magpies midfield is a very crucial point for this team and their future as a cohesive unit. Bruno tends to play deeper to build from the back, but that comes with the negative of his lesser defensive talent (and physical presence compared to Joelinton’s). Howe must keep a perfect balance between these two, but so far so good for the Brazilian pairing.
I could have gone in a million directions here, but ASM deserved the nod after playing one of his best games of the season against Arsenal, no less. Gary Neville made it clear in the post-game when he said that it would have driven him mad to play against a lad like Maximin. Nuff said. ASM drove Tomiyasu crazy, was a perfect 13-for-13 at passing the ball, and had a shot on target after dancing all over Tomi that Ramsdale had to put on work to save. Nobody other than Saint-Maximin attempted—let alone succeeded—more than four dribbles yesterday with ASM logging eight of them and completing six. Nothing left for him to do on the pitch, all things considered. He was quick, lively, smart, and played at 2x speed as he always does but avoided mistakes and overcomplicating plays. This is the ASM we want to see on a weekly basis because we are convinced he truly has it in him as he just showed the world over. Keep it going, Saint-Maximin.
In Their Own Words
Pulling some quotes dropped after the last game of the season played in St James’ Park.
First things first, Callum Wilson praised the Geordie Faithful for the electric atmosphere at SJP:
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere.”
And on the team improving results as the season has grown older, and his own comeback feelings:
“Early on in the season everyone wrote us off and we were relegated by Christmas time. But we’ve dug deep and proved everybody wrong.”
“I’m getting a lot more chances and we’re keeping the ball better.”
“I’ve worked so hard [to come back]. When you’re out injured you want to come back and make a difference.”
”I knew [Arsenal] centre-backs had injury problems. As a striker I was licking my lips.”
In a similar vein, Matt Targett also gave his kudos to the fans present in the stadium yesterday:
“The crowd was electric today and that fed down to the pitch.”
“We were feeding off that and that was probably our best performance of the second half of the season.”
Newcastle’s gaffer Howe could only drop delightful words after yesterday’s outing:
“It was a brilliant all-round performance.”
“We played with intensity and never let up.”
“We approached the game in a brilliant manner.”
On the critiques thrown his way of late, even when in the middle of extraordinary runs of play and victories:
“The one thing missing from us was that we hadn’t beaten a big-six team - and we deservedly beat them.”
As far as his gameplan, Howe noted:
“We wanted to press Arsenal and not let them settle into a rhythm but also for the first time in recent performances we saw a team that could have the ball comfortably and be creative.”
“Arsenal competed well and fought well but they left spaces for us and we exploited them.”
On a completely different front, Bruno felt the urge to make his opinion on Matt Targett’s pending extension (very) clear by popping in the middle of an on-pitch interview with the defender:
“He needs to stay!”
After that, Targett himself assessed the comment:
“It’s up to the club. It’s a massive project, an exciting project, and I think everyone wants to be a part of it.”
We will see what happens in a few days or weeks and if it’s Targett or another player (Atletico Madrid’s Renan Lodi is often making it to the rumor mill these days) manning the left full-back position next year. I, for one, would love to keep Targett in town if only because of the very cheap buy-on clause and his above-average production throughout his loan spell on Tyneside.
Howay the Lads!