Can Joelinton break Newcastle shackles?
Fears that Andy Carroll may not be fit to start a match for Newcastle before Christmas mean a lot of pressure rests on the shoulders of summer signing Joelinton.
£40 million purchase is a rounded striker able to run with the ball and hold it up but, most importantly, scores goals. The worry is that the Brazilian has only found the back of the net once in the Premier League so far.
That goal, the winner in a 1-0 victory over Spurs, came from one of Newcastle’s only attacks in the entire match. Spurs had 80.2 per cent possession as Steve Bruce’s side sat in a low block which frustrated their opponents and ensured any chances created at the other end were of enormously high value. The one decent opportunity Joelinton had to shoot inside the box ended up in the net.
Joelinton’s hold-up and link play were brilliant and fundamental to keeping Newcastle in the match.
Dropping wherever needed to relieve pressure, using his physique to shield the ball and bring others into play, Joelinton’s touchmap was of a striker playing for the team, with only five touches in the box.
Newcastle’s strategy is to defend, defend some more and then hit teams on the counter. Watford struggled to break them down in a 1-1 draw and Brighton had 71.3 per cent possession in a 0-0 stalemate.
The conundrum that Joelinton faces is how to score the goals expected of him while being deployed as a mobile passing wall, a forward whose work is mostly done in approach play rather than finishing off moves.
The final 15 minutes of the draw with Brighton showed a different
approach, with Newcastle swapping Jonjo Shelvey for Ki Sung-yueng and gaining control of midfield. Having survived constant Brighton attacks, the time had come to take the game to their opponents and steal the three points, but by then Joelinton’s race had been run. Exhausted and with only three touches in the Brighton box, he was replaced by Carroll for the final push.
Leicester will control possession and the game tomorrow because, simply, they have better players, an adventurous manager and pose a real threat. But that might play perfectly into Bruce’s tactical plans. Newcastle will sit deep and may need only a single chance to win the three points.
Joelinton’s thankless task will be acting as a lightning rod, bringing others into play and – if all goes to plan – scoring that one opportunity he is granted by Bruce’s supercautious approach.