The £25m player Eddie Howe needs to reassess to help turn things around for Newcastle United

It’s been exactly four months since Joe Willock returned to Newcastle United as the club’s marquee summer signing.

‘Marquee,’ also roughly translates to ‘only’ in the context of The Magpies’ predictably frugal transfer window.

At a reported £25m, Willock arrived from Arsenal as the second most expensive player in Newcastle’s history, behind Joelinton.

Following his exploits while on loan from The Gunners last season, acquiring Willock on a six-year-deal look to be a potentially shrewd piece of business by United given the going rate for young English goalscoring midfielders.

The then 21-year-old netted eight times in 14 matches for United last season and equalled Alan Shearer’s record of scoring in seven consecutive Premier League games for the club.

Fast-forward seven months and Willock has just played his 14th league match of Newcastle’s 2021-22 season at Leicester City. The Magpies have won one game all season and Willock has failed to open his account as a permanent player for the club.

The midfielder scored on his previous visit to The King Power Stadium back in May as The Magpies secured an impressive 4-2 win.

But it was a different story this time around as they fell to a 4-0 defeat against the FA Cup holders.

Newcastle player Joe Willock in action during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Burnley at St. James Park on December 04, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

While Willock was not at direct fault for any of the goals – it was another game that just seemed to pass the young midfielder by.

Clumsy fouls and sluggish touches scuppered Newcastle’s momentum on several occasions and playing deep in the midfield gave him little licence to play to his strengths.

Just before half-time, Willock got in a decent area to try and meet Allan Saint-Maximin’s cross with his head only to be denied by the impressive Youri Tielemans.

Last season, we saw Willock be most effective when in an advanced position as part of a three man midfield and free to burst into the box. On 59-minutes he showed a glimpse of why Newcastle shelled out a club record fee for a domestic player as he created an opportunity out of nothing with a great turn on his touch before darting towards goal and blasting over from 25-yards.

It was a fleeting moment but exactly the type of area Willock needs to be in – in the middle, running towards goal – not meandering around in front of the defence. Although that’s difficult when Newcastle are under the cosh and playing with two centre-backs and two central-midfielders.

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Expectations were undoubtedly elevated following Willock’s impressive goalscoring return last season. Though it would have been naive to expect an instant impact this time out given that he’d played just 48 minutes for Arsenal in pre-season.

But we need to be seeing so much more from Willock and his teammates if ‘The Maggies’ are going to somehow turn their season around.

The 22-year-old is suffering from a mild case of ‘Kenedy syndrome’ after returning to the club following a successful initial loan spell. Only this time, Newcastle have shelled out a relatively large transfer fee.

Newcastle can’t afford to carry players who could come good in six month’s time – they need results and performances now.

It’s too early to write Willock off, but Eddie Howe should look to reassess his role in the side and release him from the shackles of regimented central-midfield position.

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