THE signing of Miguel Almiron and emergence of Sean Longstaff have both helped Newcastle solve their long-running problem of scoring.
They’ve done it in different ways, but it’s no coincidence their upturn in form has come since those two have become established.
I never thought Newcastle would be in danger because the strongest teams defensively tend to stay up.
Only four teams have conceded more this season, but the issues have come at the other end where only three have scored fewer.
Rafa Benitez has settled on playing a back three for a while now, but while is made them tight at the back, it was to the detriment of them as an attacking force.
Salomon Rondon was Benitez’s main target in the summer – and it’s easy to see why.
He is a very good focal point due to his physical presence, but he has found himself isolated up front too often.
Newcastle defend in numbers so when they do win the ball back they have struggled to at times to get out.
But with the addition of Almiron, Newcastle now have the pace to get in support and beyond the Venezuelan.
Rondon can now drop deep knowing that Almiron, and Ayoze Perez, can get in behind, as shown perfectly within minutes of Almiron’s full debut against Huddersfield.
It’s not just pace that he brings though – Almiron, 25, has great energy to last all game, he takes a good set-piece, and as impressive as anything is how much of a team player he looks.
Against Huddersfield, he created six chances which is more than any other Toon player has managed since the start of last season. His arrival has brought a huge level of excitement to the whole club.
But just as positive has been how naturally local-lad Longstaff has taken to the first team since he was given a chance away at Chelsea.
Longstaff —who had a fruitful loan at Blackpool last season— has started every game since, and what has impressed me most is just how mature the midfielder is.
I’ve rarely seen Longstaff, 21, have to dive into tackles, a sign that his positioning and anticipation is spot on.
He’s been tasked by Benitez to predominantly sit in midfield, allowing Isaac Hayden to join in further forward when required.
So his defensive attributes, along with the arrival of Almiron, have contributed to Newcastle score more goals in recent times.
The balance to the side is so much better now – not only are they solid at the back, they have found a new dimension going forward that can guarantee their survival and propel them towards the top half.
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