This is why £40m signing Joelinton is already under pressure at Newcastle United
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Joelinton, signed for £40million this summer, has scored one goal so far this season – and Bruce’s 17th-placed side are the joint-lowest scorers in the Premier League.
If Newcastle, beaten 1-0 by Chelsea last weekend without having a shot on target, are to stay up, they need to start scoring more goals – and quickly.
Joelinton, handed the club’s coveted No9 jersey previously worn by loanee Salomon Rondon, has laboured up front since scoring his first goal against Tottenham Hotspur in late August – and there had been calls for Andy Carroll to be handed a start before he suffered a groin injury at Stamford Bridge.
Bruce – whose side takes on Wolverhampton Wanderers at St James’s Park tomorrow – is not yet minded to take Joelinton out of the firing line, though Gayle’s return from a calf injury has given him another option up front.
United’s head coach pointed to one-time United target Nicholas Pepe’s experiences at Arsenal this season when pressed about Joelinton’s own adjustment to the demands of English football.
“I don’t think he needs a rest just yet – he just needs time,” said Bruce. “The boy (Nicholas) Pepe scored two for Arsenal (against Guimaraes) this week, and you’ll see a different player for that.
“It takes time to adjust to the Premier League. It doesn’t matter who you are or how big the price tag is, I’ve seen it so often. It takes time to get used to the physicality of the Premier League – that’s where it’s different.
“But we have no doubt he’s a very good player. Like most strikers, they’re a different animal after a goal, like he was at Spurs. He works hard in training. He’ll be a good player.
“We can still improve him. He’s only just turned 23. We knew there would be improvement, and he can only get better.
“In Germany he played a lot in a front three, to the left, I saw him do that (for Hoffenheim) at Man City. We have that in our locker as well.”
On the team’s performance at Stamford Bridge, Bruce said: “We got ourselves into good positions at Chelsea, and nothing came of it. We’ve got to make better decisions and be more clinical. The decisions we made last week weren’t good enough.”
Gayle’s 23 goals took Newcastle out of the Championship in the 2016/17 campaign, but he found starts harder to come by in the Premier League the following season.
The 29-year-old – who spent last season on loan at second-tier club West Bromwich Albion – has netted six top-flight goals for the club, and Bruce will give him an opportunity to show he can perform in the division.
“I tried to sign him three times, and was never able to do it,” said Bruce. “I always believe that, if you’re a goalscorer, you’re a goalscorer.
“Yes, we know that the Premier League is a step up, but I saw him play twice for West Brom last season and he was electric. He was easily the best striker in the division. “When you see him in training, he finishes naturally. So, if you do create the opportunities, then I’m sure he will take them.
“But every goalscorer needs a bit of service, and that’s the difficult part of the game. We have to try to get that.”
Asked if Gayle could play alongside Joelinton, Bruce said: “That would change the system, which I'm a bit reluctant to do at the minute, but it's something that we're looking at and toying over, because we simply have to get more goals in the team.
“That's the conundrum we face, opening ourselves up a little bit, changing the system a little bit. When we've done that, we haven't got any reward, so I'm a bit reluctant.
“We've done well against Manchester United, and for large spells against Chelsea, we did well in that respect, so I'm a bit reluctant to change us just yet.”
Bruce could opt to move Joelinton to the left and field Gayle as an out-and-out striker.
“That's an option,” said Bruce. “Saying that, he (Gayle) was a centre-forward for West Brom last year, and out-and-out No9, and he played handsomely as well when I saw him. That's an option, though. We can look at.”
Carroll, meanwhile, felt his groin a couple of minutes after being sent on against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, where Marcus Alonso scored the only goal of the game.
The Gateshead-born striker, re-signed on transfer deadline day as a free agent, could be back for the November 2 game against his former club West Ham United at the London Stadium.
“We're disappointed, and there's nobody more disappointed than him,” said Bruce. “The good thing is his ankle's OK, the way we are managing his ankle is OK.
“The frustration for everybody is he's just got himself into a position where he's knocking on the door. But, look, we have to accept it that he's hurt his groin. Thankfully, as I said, he's not hurt his ankle, so we hope that he'll be fit and available for next week.”