Joelinton makes preferred position admission one year on from Newcastle United turning point
One year ago, everything changed for Joelinton at Newcastle United.
The Brazilian had been deemed a £40million ‘flop’ after struggling to find the net in his first two-and-a-half seasons as an attacking player on Tyneside. But on a cold November evening at St James’s Park, a winless Newcastle side came up against relegation rivals Norwich City.
The game couldn’t have got off to a worse start for the hosts as within the opening 10 minutes they were reduced to 10-men following Ciaran Clark’s last-man challenge on Teemu Pukki. But Clark’s red card would in fact prove to be a blessing in disguise and in many ways a turning point in Newcastle’s season.
Due to United’s numerical disadvantage, Joelinton dropped into a deeper role to help shore things up in midfield. The match finished 1-1 with Pukki’s late strike cancelling out Callum Wilson’s penalty but Joelinton grabbed plenty of plaudits for his industrious performance.
The Brazilian continued to be deployed as midfield destroyer by new manager Eddie Howe as Newcastle’s season turned around for the better. Describing a player as being like a new signing can often be lazy, but Joelinton looked worth every penny of the £40million the club paid Hoffenheim back in 2019 when playing in the middle.
His tenacity to make tackles, close the ball down and his physical presence gave Newcastle an added edge in midfield and helped the side get on the front foot and press. He was one of the first players to fully embrace the ‘intensity is our identity’ approach enforced by Howe.
With Newcastle’s form improving dramatically and the fear of relegation no longer present, Joelinton has also found himself being used out on the left wing in addition to midfield. With a new-found confidence, the 26-year-old has flourished out wide too – scoring twice in the reverse fixture at Norwich City last season and also finding the net against Aston Villa in October.
Joelinton’s form was such that he put himself in with an outside chance of making Brazil’s World Cup squad having made Tite’s original long-list before it was cut down to 26-players, which included team-mate Bruno Guimaraes.
Although Howe still views Joelinton as an attacking player, the 26-year-old is purely focused on how he can help the team, no matter what the position.
“It doesn’t matter to me, I just want to help the team in every position,” he admitted. “Midfield, out wide, I just try my best to help the team all the time.”
But for Howe, that Norwich game was the turning point for Joelinton.
“From the outside, did I see Joelinton as a No.8, tracking blindside runs and crosses into our box?” Newcastle’s head coach said. “I didn't see that until the Norwich game, when he played in the role and was absolutely brilliant. “He has continued to develop and we have continued to work with him. His general performances have been so impressive - and that's huge, huge credit to him.”
Howe previously told The Gazette: “He's given me everything as in, he's really bought into what we've tried to do.
"He's worked incredibly hard for his team and his teammates. I thought his performances have been very consistent, I think he's been outstanding.”