Brazilian forward Joelinton joined Newcastle United in the summer for a club record £40million – he brought with him a lot of excitement, apprehension and slight confusion at what his actual position was. It seemed obvious that Newcastle had brought the lad in to play as the Rondon replacement in the number nine role – but it’s a position he isn’t used to playing.
Despite being a striker by trade, Joelinton isn’t what we’d class as a “typical number nine”, despite his build and athletic ability being similar to that, he prefers to play slightly deeper. During his time at Hoffenheim, Joelinton played slightly further back, coming deep to pick up the ball and link the play with those around him.
His time in Germany was so successful and he was rated so highly because of that ability to drop deep and link play. Under Julian Nagelsmann, he was used as either the second striker in a 3-5-2, the number 10 in a 4-4-2 diamond or even off the wing in a 4-3-3 formation.
Since signing for Newcastle, Joelinton has come in for a lot of criticism for his sheer lack of goals. However, given the information above as well as the fact that he plays as a sole striker in a 5-4-1 under Steve Bruce, it’s little surprise he hasn’t offered much goal threat. In a set-up as defensive as the one Bruce has adopted, the striker tends to be quite isolated and is required to come deep for the ball before holding it up and bringing the wingers into play.
To be perfectly honest, I believe this is something he’s done well so far this season but it means they have to sacrifice having him in areas where he might be able to get a goal. As a result of this, in the rare occasions he does end up with a goal-scoring opportunity, his confidence in front of goal is so low that he usually loses all composure and blasts it wide or over the bar.
However, in a slightly strange juxtaposed series of events, the unfortunate fitness problems of Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron may have dealt Bruce and Joelinton a slice of fortune. In his press conference today, Bruce indicated that he is considering starting Joelinton in a wide position, with the in-form Andy Carroll taking the central starting role.
“It is something we are toying with,” Bruce stated. “He has played half his career there [out wide] at his previous club. He’s no stranger to it. He can play a different formation and it’s something we have up our sleeve if we need it. It might just give big Joe a lift as well. Sometimes a change of scenery, formation or position can stimulate you a bit. He is only a young lad and he’s got a big responsibility on his shoulders. We have to be patient.”
Given that, as Bruce says, Joelinton has spent a fair bit of time out on the wing during his time in the Bundesliga, it could be just the thing the Brazilian needs to spark his NUFC career into life. If he can he drift inside and link up with Andy Carroll in the same way he did with Andrej Kramaric at Hoffenheim, it could end up being the perfect decision from the Newcastle boss.
From the wing, he can use his pace and skill to leave defenders in his wake and once more become an excellent creator. From the wing for Hoffenheim, he had a crossing success rate of 56.3% and often used his vision and footballing intelligence to link the play with central forward – picking out through balls and lobbed passes to create chances for his teammates.
I worry for the level of help he will have at his disposal though – with the press conference today indicating that we will likely see an attacking trio of Joelinton, Carroll and Christian Atsu against Burnley. It’ll be interesting to see just how well he can link up with the pair.
As a Newcastle fan and a big advocate of the Brazilian forward’s abilities – I’m cautiously optimistic about this change. I do hope Bruce does go ahead and make that change, but Joelinton has to take it with both hands. It’s important that we, as fans, don’t get on his back the second he makes a mistake and declare the whole experiment to be a failure. He’s currently short on confidence and will need the backing of the fans.