The Newcastle United tactical switch Eddie Howe could make against Fulham
The focus at Newcastle United in recent weeks has largely been on the return of Bruno Guimaraes and Allan Saint-Maximin.
Certainly, Guimaraes – who made his comeback in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Bournemouth – was a big miss during his three-game absence. And Allan Saint-Maximin is desperately needed back.
Yet, arguably, the player who Eddie Howe needs back most is Callum Wilson, who has been out with a hamstring problem since scoring against Premier League champions Manchester City in August.
That’s not a slur on summer signing Alexander Isak, who has scored two goals in his first three games. Isak’s goal tally would stand at three in three had it not been for a marginal offside call at Anfield late last month.
Wilson is more or less ready to return, and should be available, barring any late niggles, for the October 1 game against Fulham which follows the international break.
“Callum’s doing very well," said head coach Eddie Howe, who revealed an injury setback for Saint-Maximin after the Bournemouth game. “We’re really pleased with his progress. He was close, but I think we made an early decision that it would have been too big a risk.
"So, we hope that with a bit more time, there’s a chance that the next game could be good for him.”
That will be good for Newcastle.
Wilson is a complete striker, and he will complete Howe’s team. He’s comfortable with his back to goal, and he’ll thrive off the balls delivered into the box by the likes of Kieran Trippier and Ryan Fraser.
Isak is a different kind of player. He’s less of an aerial threat, and, as we saw against Liverpool, he’ll cause more problems, especially away from home when Newcastle are playing on the counter-attack, with his pace and movement.
The 22-year-old – who scored a penalty against Bournemouth to take his goal tally to two – is also learning about his team team following his £60million move from Real Sociedad.
Newcastle’s players are also learning about Isak, who didn’t get the right kind of early service.
“He’s learning, and not just how the team plays, but also how his team-mates around him play too,” said Howe. “Again, there were flashes from him, but I don’t think, as a team, we did well enough around him to get him into goalscoring positions.
“We didn’t feed him the ball early enough. He was a little bit isolated, and we didn’t get him involved enough in the key areas where he wants to be involved.
Let’s look at the positives – he took his penalty brilliantly and he worked hard for the team. He definitely contributed, but we know we can get him involved a lot more than that.”
Howe has previously spoken about Isak and Wilson playing together, and the Sweden international could be move to a wide position to accommodate his 30-year-old team-mate against Fulham.
“He’s a versatile player, and we obviously moved him briefly to the wide left when Chris (Wood) came on,” said Howe. “He can play in a slightly deeper role as well, so there is flexibility with him.”
And that could mean double trouble for Fulham when the Premier League resumes.