Newcastle United could not have started the season with a better matchup—against freshly promoted Nottingham Forest—and ultimately a better result: a clean and easy victory by a two-goal difference over the still-lost men they call the Tricky Trees. Here are some quick thoughts that came to my mind while watching the game.
Let’s get it poppin’.
Three Quick Thoughts
1. He was worth it: Joelinton can do it all
In the most ridiculous summer in the history of Newcastle upon Tyne, the Magpies have had to deal with the very real issue of having tons of money readily available and a bunch of Saudi Arabia gentlemen very willing to burn it on transfer deals. Clubs are quoting every living organism part of their organization at astronomical values to take advantage of Newcastle’s full bags—reasonable—but the Men In Black have kept a leveled head and operating impeccably so far.
That can’t be said of the good old times when, as recently as in the summer of 2019, Newcastle went on to sign a Brazilian bangscorer by the name of Joelinton. On a six-year deal. For a then-record-fee of €45 million. Or can it? Joelinton is worth that and then some, folks. Howe used him in the forward line last season, then found a gem when deploying him in the middle of the pitch, and an even better piece of diamond when handing him the do-it-all role later in the year. This man can score, recover the ball, impose his will, move the rock, shoot on goal, distribute, tackle, etc, etc... all while looking magnificent standing on the greenest pastures around the nation. Give me another Joelinton for that price, and I wouldn’t be complaining for a second.
2. Bullets dodged in avoiding Jesse Lingard and Dean Henderson transfer deals
Of course, it’s only been a game. So much so, in fact, that’s all we’ve seen from Lingard and Henderson after leaving Manchester for the comfy confines of Nottingham. But truth be told, none of them looked so incredibly great as to have Newcastle ponying up the salaries and/or transfer money United might have asked for in return for their freedom and subsequent signing by the Magpies.
Jesse finished the game with SofaScore’s worst grade among all players involved in the match while Dean’s 7.6 grade was the best among Forest players if only because of the volume of shots he faced and how he dealt with them—not that they were all clear-cut chances for the Magpies nor incredibly greatly finalized efforts, mind you. Pope was barely tested in Newcastle’s goal and Joe Willock looked more than good starting in place of expected-XIer Sean Longstaff. Give me those two all day over the Notts duo, all day, every day.
3. Fluid Flexible Formations
Eddie, oh, Eddie. Howe deployed a classic 4-3-3 to kick the season off in a very predictable way. Not that we are mad at him, though. The system works and did so already last season in the Magpies' run to secure their Premier League status for at least another year. The back four included a surprise in Burn starting over Botman—if you can call it that at all—and the midfield trio featured Willock instead of pre-season king Longstaff, but other than that it was all very chalky. Or was it?
It was not, or at least that the first impression I got—I will be exploring this in greater depth tomorrow in the match report looking at positional data and plotting some spicy charts. The team used the 4-3-3, some 4-2-1-2-1, some 4-1-2-2-1, and pretty much everybody in the midfield and forward strata got to play wherever the hell they wanted. ASM spent time on the right and roamed all around the pitch. Joelinton’s heat map must be a sight to behold going up and down, left and right without dropping the tiniest amount of sweat. Almironón manned the right chalk, moved to the AMF, dropped to the CMF, and didn’t bit for a second. Bruno, Willock, and Joelinton formed a ridiculously fluid triangle that got to feature either one or two (double) pivots at all times. All things considered, Nottingham never grabbed hold of the game and looked like what they seemingly still are, a Championship team lost in a field packed full of grown-ass Premier League men.
Game Recap and Top-3 Players coming tomorrow.
Howay the Lads!