Why Allan Saint-Maximin is Important to Newcastle United

Allan Saint-Maximin

Newcastle United’s 3-1 win against Burnley on Saturday was a good result after some laboured – and fortunate – results the week before. A late VAR penalty decision gifted the Magpies a penalty against Tottenham Hotspur; similarly, they required penalties to pass Newport County in the Carabao Cup.

Their performance against the Clarets, though, was much more assured, with two men in particular standing out. Callum Wilson took his Premier League goal tally for the season to four already; for context, that is only two fewer than Newcastle’s top scorer in the league last season. However, it was Allan Saint-Maximin whose performance stood out, duping three Burnley defenders for his goal and putting the ball on a plate for Callum Wilson with a beautiful cross. If he stays fit the Frenchman will be an integral part of Steve Bruce‘s side, and one statistic in particular highlights this.

Allan Saint-Maximin: Invaluable to Steve Bruce and Newcastle United

Influential Player

Allan Saint-Maximin is a rare breed of footballer that comes around only so often for Newcastle United fans. Very much a player in the Hatem Ben Arfa or Tino Asprilla mould, he is a diamond in the rough at Newcastle. He is gifted with the ability to create something out of nothing, with dazzling footwork and blistering pace which terrifies defences. It is no wonder Burnley fouled him so many times, most notably with Phil Bardsley, who was lucky to escape a booking. Bruce has deemed him a ‘marked man’, which will certainly be the case this year if he continues to contribute going forward.

One problem that Newcastle will do well to avoid this season is an overreliance on his influence. Steve Bruce’s record without Saint-Maximin starting for him is woeful. With the Frenchman, Steve Bruce has managed 12 wins from 26 Premier League games, losing eight and drawing six. However, without their talisman, Bruce has just one win to his name from 16 matches, with six draws and nine losses. The Magpies must find a way to win points without the 23-year-old winger; they cannot rely on fortuitous goals all season. If they are to stay away from a relegation dogfight, they must begin to make their own luck. Finding a way to win without the Frenchman is the first step to doing this.

A Sign of Poor Tactics?

Steve Bruce found himself on the end of a wave of criticism after poor performances against Spurs and Newport. Newcastle lacked direction against Jose Mourinho’s side, and never imposed themselves against their League Two opposition. After adding Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson to the side this summer, and with Miguel Almirón also waiting in the wings, you would think Newcastle are well-stocked in the attacking front. Yet, clearly Steve Bruce has relied on Saint-Maximin much more as a creative outlet.

Over the past two seasons, many Newcastle matches seem to have followed a very similar pattern; Steve Bruce’s side will sit back and play passive football, absorbing attacking pressure without going far away from their box. Yet, when given more of the ball and an opportunity to escape their half, they freeze and lose all sense of comfort on the ball. At times against Spurs in particular, Newcastle looked like a side set up only to defend, and nothing more. You cannot coach a gift like that of Allan Saint-Maximin – it’s a natural talent. That is not to say that Newcastle’s other players aren’t good footballers, it is simply Saint-Maximin’s nature to want to take a man on. On his day, as against Burnley, he is unplayable, and his influence on the team is clear. But it cannot be a heavy burden knowing a team’s creative solutions rest on your shoulders. Just look at how the pressure affected Joelinton.

While Saint-Maximin will bring many magical moments each season, his creative well will sometimes run dry. Steve Bruce must think up another solution to Newcastle’s offensive potential to dispel that creeping shadow of inconsistency. If the Magpies learn to cope without their golden-haired winger, they may fly high this season.

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