Newcastle United's double recall conundrum & the biggest victim of their key system switch – Liam Kennedy's SEVEN Magpies takeaways

Things are looking up for Newcastle United in their battle to retain their Premier League status.

Sunday, 18th April 2021, 12:00 pm
Ciaran Clark of Newcastle United celebrates after his teammate Joelinton scored their side's second goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and West Ham United at St. James Park on April 17, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Here’s Liam Kennedy’s SEVEN NUFC takeaways from the West Ham win...

Time for Willock?

Two goals in his last three games off the bench. Loan man Joe Willock is proving himself to be a top class Premier League finisher.

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But surely now there must be a case to say Willock has worked his way into a starting role? I think it’s time for the player to be trusted again from the off, especially as he will miss Newcastle’s game against his parent club in a fortnight.

Who does the Arsenal man come in for? It’d likely be Sean Longstaff, but I’d drop Shelvey.

Saint-Maximin concern

Just when it looks like Newcastle United are going to be able to call on all their fantastic front triumvirate, one of them picks up another knock.

Allan Saint-Maximin has a swollen ankle after the Magpies’ win – and head coach Steve Bruce has another headache to deal with ahead of a trip to Liverpool next Saturday.

Fingers crossed he will be OK, because in his current form the Frenchman is absolutely unplayable. A nightmare for any Premier League defender.

Striker conundrum – no bad problem to have

Callum Wilson now looks fit enough to come back into the Newcastle side now, he was full of running against West Ham and nowhere near as tentative as against Burnley.

Should he be brought back, that is likely to see Joelinton drop out, depending on the fitness of ASM.

And in fairness, goalscorer Joelinton doesn’t deserve to be dropped. He was a physical presence for United up top and long may his emergence as an asset, however belated it may be, continue.

Learning on the job – United’s width improvements

Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie have been revelations since coming into the Newcastle United side.

Both are natural wideman, neither a wing-back by trade.

So while the attacking aspects of their game are in no doubt, the defensive stuff can let them down.

But steadily both are getting better and better defensively, particularly Murphy down the right.

Slowly but surely for Fede

Federico Fernandez is still not performing at 100% capacity – but the signs of a return to pre-Covid form were there for all to see at SJP on Saturday.

The Argentine struggled against Burnley but shades of the old Fernandez appeared against the Hammers.

Yes, he will be unhappy with the header for the first West Ham goal, but apart from that he was solid on the right of the three-man central defensive unit.

The man this system does NOT suit

Miguel Almiron. Plain and simple. His game, so bright in the midseason reboot, has been totally curtailed with a deeper midfield role.

His form has massively dipped with the switch, too. Ran down too many blind alleys and was wasteful in possession.

Safety secured?

United certainly look to be heading that way, but nothing can be 100% guaranteed.

For the first time in a long time the Magpies are not the team everyone in the bottom three is looking to chase down. That’s been passed on to Burnley.

35 points is normally enough to keep a team up, it has been for the last four years, so logic would say form in United’s favour.