The Newcastle United Joe Willock transfer fear, entertainment returns to Tyneside & improving Joelinton and Almiron – Liam Kennedy's SEVEN takeaways
The entertainment has returned to Tyneside – and I don’t think too many Newcastle United fans are complaining, despite their side being on the losing side against Premier League champions Manchester City.
Last night the Magpies were beaten 4-3 by Pep Guardiola & Co at St James’ Park with Emil Krafth, Joelinton and man of the moment Joe Willock getting on the scoresheet.
It may well have proven an ultimately fruitless endeavour, but here’s seven takeaways from the encounter – and positivity remains the narrative.
Entertainment, goals, points – what’s not to like?
Thirteen goals have been scored in Newcastle United’s last two games, against top of the table Man City and third-placed Leicester City.
If you’d have said that a few short weeks ago the imagination would have run wild with talk of six-goal hammerings. But no, this version of Newcastle, the recently-found one, is different.
They counter-attacked the backside off the Foxes last week to claim all three points and held their own on the same front against the Premier League titlists.
This is no guarantee of a brighter future but there is a lot to like about what’s been served up. After all of the negativity, allow yourself to enjoy once more, even if the manager and owner are unlikely to be the custodians you feel worthy of our great football club.
The Willock transfer fear – and it’s probably not what you’d imagine
There’s been LOTS of noise about Willock recently – and rightly so.
One thing that remains unlikely however, is that he will be opened back to Arsenal with open arms and a guaranteed route to the first-team despite a goal-laden loan spell on Tyneside. Willock netted in his fifth consecutive game, taking his goals total to six in black and white since arriving in January.
It has to be remembered, Arsenal want to make the leap back to Champions League football sharpish – and that’s where Wilock will find it tough. Is he the type of name Mikel Arteta will pin those hopes on? Judging by his recent transfer activity it is not.
The most likely block in Willock returning to the club is not Arteta’s desire to keep the midfielder, more Mike Ashley and the club hierarchy’s reluctance to sanction such a large fee due to their Covid-impacted budget.
Ever-improving Joelinton – finally adding some consistent value to squad
Joelinton hasn’t even got close to repaying the £40m outlay for his services in summer 2019. He hadn’t even got close to looking like a Premier League player, to be honest, until the start of March.
However, since probably the West Brom draw – a dull, lifeless encounter for the record – he has arguably been one of United’s most consistent performers.
It has taken time but Joelinton at least now looks like he is adding some value to this squad.
He is still far from the answer, of that there is no doubt, but we must say as we see – and he’s been decent in the last two months, so much so it was even thought he was unlucky to drop out the side when Callum Wilson returned.
He is too one-paced in everything he does, his reactions are far from sharp also, but his movement and physicality has improved as the season has worn on – and he’s finally adding a goal or two to his tally. Six for the season now in all competitions. A slight improvement on last season’s four, with two guaranteed games against already relegated sides to add to that.
Shame he didn’t want to take the second penalty against City, mind – or allowed Willock to bully him into stepping aside.
More like it from Almiron
Miguel Almiron has never lost that smile, but his game has definitely been without shine in recent weeks.
Bar the Spurs game, he’s been poor – much to do with his switch further back.
But with gaps opening up he broke at will against City and but for a poor decision or two with the final ball, could have opened the opposition up. Long may it continue.
What’s happened to Fede Fernandez?
Up to Christmas it was easy to answer the question as to who Newcastle’s best defender is… of course, it is Fernandez.
But he’s dropped off a cliff in the second half of the season, especially after his most recent recall.
There are mitigating circumstances – Covid, injuries and the subsequent recoveries – but had others been fit and in form his place may be at risk.
I’d still keep him, if possible, but his form can’t be helping his contract negotiations.
A better prepared Bruce future?
Look, let’s be straight about this. It looks like Bruce will be manager next season and for the foreseeable future with no takeover progress the default position everyone must adopt.
And one positive I take from that – you always have to – is that Graham Jones is alongside him. And in Jones they have someone with tactical nouse and an ability to coach and formulate plans.
With a full pre-season to draw up and map out, you’d like to think the side will be at least better prepared than they were last summer.
Squad trim needed
Looking at the United bench v City and there needs to be a cull. Too many players who’ve added little to nothing to the effort, some through no fault of their own.
Questions need to be asked whether the likes of Dwight Gayle, Andy Carroll, Jeff Hendrick and Matty Longstaff should get places in next season’s 25-man PL unit, when they’ve barely registered this campaign.