'Best game in a black and white shirt' - Why Newcastle United fans shouldn't give up on £40m striker Joelinton just yet in battle for survival
"Joelinton had his best game in a black and white shirt”.
That was the verdict of club legend Alan Shearer – and a large proportion of the Newcastle United fanbase – following the Brazilian’s standout performance against Tottenham Hotspur.
It may be near two years in the making but it’s fair to argue that the Magpies are beginning to see life in their £40million club record signing.
Supporters wouldn’t have been mistaken for writing off Joelinton well before now. Indeed, he will probably never live up to his inflated price tag.
But it’s not about his price tag anymore – It hasn’t been for a long time. What it is about is carving out of a player capable of having some kind of impact, at least on a consistent basis.
And over the last few weeks, the 24-year-old has shown signs of doing that – excluding the 3-0 hammering at Brighton and Hove Albion.
Had the front three of Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron stayed fit, Joelinton would have likely been long out the starting XI by now, as suggested by his five consecutive bench appearances between Aston Villa away and Southampton at home – which coincided with Graeme Jones’ system change.
Deployed in the Wilson role on the right-hand side as a ‘split striker’, Joelinton has done his best impersonation of United’s top scorer since his return to the line-up at Manchester United but without the goalscoring touch.
At Old Trafford, Joelinton offered Bruce’s side a decent outlet in a ‘backs against the wall’ display and whatever way you look at it and as infuriating as it was at the time, Joelinton has played a notable part in the draws against Wolves, West Brom, Aston Villa and Tottenham.
The former Hoffenheim man could have clinched a late victory against Nuno Espirito Santo’s men if it weren’t for an outstanding block on the line by Romain Saiss.
He oversaw two of United’s biggest chances at West Brom – opting to try and find Ryan Fraser instead of shooting before a tame effort at Sam Johnstone’s goal in the second half.
Tyrone Mings did not enjoy his Friday night against the powerful Brazilian but similar to West Brom, Joelinton, as it is said up here, “went to pot” in the box.
There was some degree of that against Spurs – take his miss from Emil Krafth’s cross for example, but he more than deserved his fourth Premier League goal for the Magpies.
A revert back to 5-3-2 on Sunday, regular Bundesliga watchers have always insisted Joelinton is better in a front two and will point to the Spurs draw as evidence to that.
Yes, had Wilson been on the end of those chances then Newcastle would inevitably have a bit more daylight between themselves at the bottom three but, quite simply, he isn’t Wilson.
The point is, let’s give credit to the player for showing clear signs of improvement – a big contrast from an abject opening 20 months at St James’s Park.
Joelinton will continue to divide opinion and provide frustration but recent performances have suggested he can still enjoy some relative success in black and white, albeit not the success fans were hoping for from a club-record signing - or a number nine.