The ‘electric’ Newcastle United star that just missed his opportunity against Fulham
Jacob Murphy was handed his first Newcastle United start of the Premier League season at Fulham on Saturday afternoon – and what an afternoon it proved to be.
Murphy has featured in every Newcastle match so far this season but had previously been limited to second half substitute appearances from the bench in Premier League matches.
In the 37 matches since head coach Eddie Howe took charge of the club in November last year, the 27-year-old has featured in 34 of them – no player has played in more games under the United boss.
But only a small portion of those games have been starts, with number 13 coming at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
In Allan Saint-Maximin’s absence on the left-wing, Ryan Fraser initially deputised but his impact in recent matches had been limited.
And with the Frenchman likely to return from a hamstring injury next weekend, it was an opportunity Murphy would have to make the most of.
The winger started out on the left flank, drifted over to the right on occasions before moving into a central striker’s role after 65 minutes after Callum Wilson’s withdrawal.
By that time, Newcastle were already four goals and a man up following Nathaniel Chalobah’s early red card and goals from Wilson, Sean Longstaff and Miguel Almiron.
It was the type of game that pacy wingers like Murphy should thrive in as he was regularly given time and space to threaten in the final third.
Yet he finished the match being the only member of the attacking and midfield six not to register a goal or an assist.
Although that doesn’t quite tell the full story as Murphy did play through Fraser to score late on only for the goal to be ruled out for offside – the winger’s output will continue to be questioned unless it improves.
In the 13 starts and 21 substitute appearances Murphy has made under Howe, he has registered no goals and just one assist to his name – hitting the woodwork several times.
His pace and movement in the final third will see him get chances, as he did on Saturday.
Murphy’s two shots on target were the joint most of any player in the match but he was denied by Fulham goalkeeper Bernd Leno on both occasions.
Each of his four attempted crosses into the box failed to find a team-mate and his 27 completed passes were the fewest of any outfield starter other than Wilson.
While statistics can tell their own story, Murphy worked hard and helped keep Fulham on the back foot – but did he make the most of his opportunity?
The winger put in a positive performance on the whole, but as his team-mates whose contributions have been questioned stood up and made themselves counted, Murphy just fell short in that respect.
But Murphy is still a player Howe trusts given his work-rate and ability to track back – only Longstaff and Kieran Trippier made more successful tackles on Saturday.
"Murphy, in different positions, played very well today,” Howe said. “I thought he was electric.”
And Howe’s opinion is ultimately the one that matters. While Murphy may not have done enough to secure his place in the starting line-up moving forward, he will remain the United boss’ ‘go to’ substitute.