Karl Darlow, Ciaran Clark, Matt Ritchie and Isaac Hayden all started for Newcastle United in the last game of the Mike Ashley era. Dwight Gayle appeared from the bench.
They were five of Newcastle’s 12 most used players in the league in 2016-17, appearing for a total of 14,122 minutes. Gayle, with 23 goals, was their top scorer.
Steve Bruce, in charge against Wolves, has consistently cited this longevity as positive as the team struggled against relegation.
As Bruce, however, clinging to his job ahead of his 1,000th career management game against Tottenham, their stays are highly unlikely to be extended for long in the property of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which has bought 80% of St James’ Park last week to become the richest football club owner in the world.
Amanda Staveley, from whom PCP Capital Partners bought 10% of Newcastle, has previously spoken of matching Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, who this year became the first British club to sign £ 100million and recruit the greatest player in history. Game.
The mere thought of Jack Grealish or Lionel Messi could make Clark’s stable and unspectacular center-back dizzy.
“We are in the market to compete for world class players,” Staveley said in another interview, before adding generously, “We already have world class players.”
Paced right winger turned left-back Ritchie certainly can’t be counted in this group. But Allan Saint-Maximin, with a little time and elite coaching, could still be.
Key like Kompany
It’s easy to imagine Newcastle’s bottomless budget allowing them to put aside their entire existing XI.
A viral social media post shared by Gary Lineker last week showed a video clip of an alternative Magpies team lining up for the Champions League anthem on EA Sports’ FIFA: Mohamed Salah, Messi , Kevin De Bruyne, Neymar, Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, Son Heung-min, Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo, supported by N’Golo Kante in the goals.
But while City’s buyout in 2008 provided the model, it showed how some players already at the club can play a vital role in the years to come.
In their last game before Abu Dhabi United Group took over, Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany both started. Pablo Zabaleta was signed on the same day.
Kompany (358), Zabaleta (333) and Hart (308) so far rank third, fifth and seventh for City’s appearances in all competitions of the Abu Dhabi era, each remaining for at least two of the five club triumphs in the Premier League. .
So who could Newcastle’s equivalents be?
“I don’t think anyone has reached their potential,” former Newcastle captain Rob Lee told Stats Perform. “You have to be brutally honest and say we wouldn’t be in this position where we are [19th] if they had played as well as they could. “
However, he added: “Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson, I would leave out.”
Wilson and Joe Willock were both reportedly interested in Staveley’s group before being brought to Tyneside, but Saint-Maximin is the real jewel in Newcastle’s counterfeit crown.
In fact, without the takeover, Newcastle fans would have feared a January release for their exciting No.10.
A year ago, Saint-Maximin declared: “If the club is developing well, and that is in accordance with my desires, staying is a possibility. Afterwards, if things don’t turn out like that, obviously the question of leaving will arise. “
Since that interview, Newcastle have won the fewest points of any Premier League side still present (41 – tied with Southampton). Saint-Maximin, on the other hand, has continued to strengthen.
Saint-Maximin came to Newcastle with a reputation as an artist, both exhilarating and frustrating. During his first two seasons at St James’ Park, he lived up to that billing.
Among the players to have made 10 starts during this period, the winger placed third in the top five European leagues for both dribbles attempted (9.1 – behind Neymar and Sofiane Boufal) and dribbles completed (5 , 7 – behind Neymar and Adama Traore) by 90 minutes, but its the end product too often missed.
Three goals and four assists in 2019-20 represented one goal implication every 267 minutes, ranking between Jonjo Shelvey (265) and Matej Vydra (271) in the Premier League. When he reproduced the same numbers again the following season, Saint-Maximin improved to one involvement every 224 minutes – just behind Danny Welbeck (221).
Still, with two goals and three assists already this season, he has one involvement every 126 minutes, which puts him directly between Bruno Fernandes (125) and Son (130).
Indeed, only seven Premier League players have created more than 16 chances for Saint-Maximin this season – Ritchie (21) is actually co-second – including 15 in open play and four “big chances”, including Opta s. ‘would expect a goal player.
These offensive statistics are all the more impressive given the role Saint-Maximin is called upon to play for Newcastle.
The Magpies start their possessions just 39 yards from their own goal on average – the third deepest in the league – meaning Saint-Maximin, who recently played as a center forward in a 3-5-2, 5-4- 1 or 4 -3-3, is responsible for getting the team up on the field.
This is why Saint-Maximin carried the ball to 1,950 m, further than any other player in the league, including 1,212 m upstream of the field – behind Traoré (1,267 m). His 99 upward runs are the best of any attacking player.
Traore is the only player in Europe to successfully face more players (49) than Saint-Maximin’s 33, although only five of the Newcastle man’s 54 dribbling attempts have been in the box – slightly less than the 18 of Mbappe.
Saint-Maximin is the creator of exceptional counterattack in Europe, forging himself 11 scoring chances (two more than Traore), but he could be even more effective a little closer to the goal in a better and more progressive team. This opportunity should now present itself in Tyneside.
“Imagine what these players must be thinking,” said Lee. “I would love to be a player right now at Newcastle.
“I was like, ‘If I win something here, there will be statues of me everywhere.’ That’s what you have to watch. The first people to win something after so long will be forever idolized.”
Savior, then superstar?
There will no doubt be some high-profile and expensive arrivals to come at St James’ Park – Lee, doing his best with Kevin Keegan, “would love it” if Newcastle signed Sunday’s opponent Harry Kane – but Saint-Maximin must first lead his side to the safety of the Premier League.
Newcastle are winless in seven this season and winless in four at home against Spurs.
But City also found life difficult in 2008-09, falling into the last three over Christmas despite having only had one day in September to sign Robinho after the takeover.
Three goals from Robinho in the next two games provided some breathing space before January, when City were able to spend again and end the campaign comfortably in the middle of the table – their form from Boxing Day being the seventh best in the league. division.
So far, Saint-Maximin is the closest Newcastle have to a Robinho, who has provided goal-setting involvement (14 goals, five assists) every 139 minutes during this campaign.
In the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, Newcastle won 42.9% of the 42 games in which Saint-Maximin started, gaining 1.5 points per game, up from 14.7% of 34 without him, collecting only 0.8 point.
This puts into context their horrific start to the season, in which Saint-Maximin was one of only two Newcastle players – Ritchie the other – to play the 630 minutes, a bright spark in a dark streak.
If the Frenchman can continue to stay fit, he will be essential for the results to turn quickly in this new era – starting with Tottenham.
“I would love to see superstars [at Newcastle] – that’s what we all want to see, ”said Lee.“ ‘The Entertainers’ was about having a very, very good team, but also recruiting superstars, like Alan [Shearer], Tinos [Asprilla] and David Ginola. “
Forget Kane, Philippe Coutinho and Mauro Icardi; Saint-Maximin is ready to become the first superstar of this team.