Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United are already missing Miguel Almiron – and especially his pacy runs forward.
Almiron suffered a season-ending hamstring injury against Southampton earlier this month.
And Benitez fielded Christsian Atsu in his place in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.
Newcastle dominated the first half and took the lead through a well-taken Ayoze Perez goal.
However, Brighton reorganised at the break and fought back in the second half. Astrike from Pascal Gross claimed a point for Chris Hughton’s relegation-threatened side.
Almiron had been outstanding for Newcastle after joining from Atlanta United in January’s transfer window.
And Benitez felt that his team missed Almiron’s powerful runs forward, especially in the second half when they were under pressure.
Asked if Newcastle had missed Almiron, Benitez said:
“Yeah. I think Atsu did well, but he’s a different kind of player, more in between the lines, he can go behind. But he does not have the 30-40 metres runs that Almiron has.
“So when you are defending deep, we didn’t have that.
“Also, Jonjo (Shelvey) was playing really well in the first half, because we had the possession, but the second half you could see we needed some legs in the middle, because they were physically more aggressive.
“They were quite strong in the air.”
United had Brighton on the back foot early in the game.
Benitez’s side dominated the ball, and the home side , fighting to stay in the Premier League, left the pitch at the break to boos from some fans.
“We have been working on that (keeping the ball), and we’re expecting something like that,” said Benitez.
“We had been watching Brighton games and clips.
“There were still two or three situations where we could do something better, some clear chances, but we were quite happy with everything.
“We knew it would become more difficult for us, that they would be pushing and pushing and on top of us. I was expecting a bit more quality from us.”