With two games already played and every Premier League side having participated in two outings with the exception of Liverpool and Crystal Palace, Newcastle is still sitting fifth and into continental football qualification places only behind two behemoths (Manchester City and Arsenal) with six points and five more tied at four points with the Magpies.
Here are your Top-3 Magpies from the Premier League’s fifth (mid)week of action.
It’d sound easy, cliche, and whatnot, but the truth is that Isak hit the ground running and his first 64 minutes of playing time in Newcastle’s system were more than enough to crown him the MVP of Wednesday’s game against Liverpool. If this is only the beginning and Isak is yet to actually train and learn the Howe System, then Geordie fans can only be excited about what might be ahead of them through the remainder of the season and the years still to come.
Isak was granted permission to feature for the Magpies just hours before kick-off but that didn’t prevent him from scoring his first goal in Black and White just 38 minutes into the game and another one—ruled off by the tiniest of offsides—not deep into the second half. As if that wasn’t enough, Isak made two successful tackles on defense and completed seven of his 10 attempted passes while winning four of the six duels he challenged. He put one shot in with his lone shot on target after misfiring with his first attempt, and a third shot (also on target) would have become a reality had that play not been ruled offside. Impressive outing from Isak to say the least. Give him your flowers.
If there is a hurting unit right now in Tyneside that’s Newcastle’s midfield. Bruno missed the game, Jonjo won’t play until the 2023 calendar year, and Allan Saint-Maximin was also out with a knock suffered last Sunday against Wolves. With such a barren crop of players available, Howe opted for a midfield trio of Joe Willock, Sean Longstaff, and Joelinton. Only the former, if we’re honest, can be considered a legitimate starting option for a top-half Premier League side and that showed in Wednesday’s game. I’m a fervent supporter of Willock and truly believe in his development and ultimate blossoming into a bona fide starter. I am a fan of Longstaff's consistency and unflashy style of play. But on a one-to-one side-by-side comparison with other midfielders from top-level teams they just wouldn’t come out on top.
Joelinton, on the other hand, and after getting his role right thanks to Eddie Howe’s mad experiments, would clearly be (and is already) a man capable of manning any and every Premier League midfield on a weekly basis for whichever team that required his services. Good for the Geordie faithful, Joelinton happens to play football on Tyneside. The Brazilian was the glue holding every piece of the squad together against the Reds. Joelinton did a little bit of everything by tackling five attackers successfully while winning 12 of the sky-high 23 (!!!) duels he challenged. He also completed 71% of his attempted passes (27/38) while clearing three balls and intercepting three passes. Quite a game from JoJo.
I could have gone with Nick Pope for the Bronze Seahorse award, but Targett deserved as many plaudits as the Newcastle keeper thanks to his fantastic performance. Yes, Pope was this close to picking the ball that instead ended on Carvalho’s foot and ultimately inside the net. Willock had another idea and attempted an ill-advised clearance, though, but I guess you can’t win at everything. Pope saved four shots through the game (three of them taken from inside the box) and went off his area successfully the two times he attempted it, so that’s nice to watch.
Targett was busy all night but he didn’t flounder for a second. One of Newcastle’s signing this summer—turning his loan deal into a full-time contract with the Magpies—Targett finished the game with five clearances on defense, one blocked shot, three interceptions, three successful tackles, and not a single dribble past his position on the field conceded to any Liverpool player. In other words: the defender was stout as a goddam wall for Newcastle yesterday and, in fact, the SofaScore rating system had him as the highest-graded Magpie of all with a 7.4 mark. Targett also had a fantastic offensive display completing 20-of-27 passes—two of them labeled as key—an accurate cross, and also a successful long ball. Had his pass to Isak in the second half happened a millisecond earlier it would have turned into an assist given that the Swede finished the play banging a goal past Liverpool’s Alison. Here’s hoping both men have a similar one in store for the game against Crystal Palace this weekend.
On to host Crystal Palace in two days at St James Park (Saturday, Sep. 3) to get back into the top half of the Premier League table.
Howay the Lads!