The Rebirth Of Newcastle United’s Joelinton

Joelinton of Newcastle United (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Joelinton of Newcastle United (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images) /

Joelinton arrived at Newcastle United in the summer of 2019 with high expectations, having smashed the club’s transfer record with his ($48.4 million) move from Hoffenheim.

He had scored 11 goals and assisted nine in 35 games in all competitions over the 2018/19 season. It took the new man just three games to get off the mark for Newcastle, scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory over Spurs.

The wait for his second goal, though, began to drag on as the Brazilian spent week after week looking hapless and isolated in Steve Bruce’s side. The manager insisted, despite months of evidence to the contrary, that Joelinton would thrive as a lone center forward.

Joelinton Setup For Failure

Joelinton had found the most success as part of a forward pairing for Hoffenheim.

The Bundesliga side’s head scout, Lutz Pfannenstiel, told The Athletic:

"The key was that our forwards would interchange and work together up front … Joelinton is versatile and he needs versatile players around him so he’s not isolated.”"

It was always unrealistic to expect the then-22-year-old to begin lighting up the Premier League right away, as he was never exactly prolific in Austria or Germany.  But using him in the wrong role all but guaranteed he would be deemed a failure.

Bruce continued to see the Brazilian as the perfect target man for his hit-it-and-hope, long-ball approach. His first two seasons on Tyneside saw a return of 10 goals from 80 games.

A Fresh Start For Joelinton

Things have changed at Newcastle since the arrival of Eddie Howe after the club’s acquisition by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. Namely, the team now has a manager who knows what he is doing.

Steve Bruce, as a manager, is nowhere near the level required for the modern Premier League, influenced as it is by Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and the like.

His signing showed a characteristic lack of ambition in the first place from Magpies owner, Mike Ashley. Bruce is part of the group of managers who always seem to rotate with one another amongst the same set of clubs and, remarkably, continue to get hired.

But with the new guard in place, Joelinton has been unleashed from his shackles and, miraculously, looks as though he’s been transformed into an all-action center midfielder.

Howe praised the Newcastle number 7, saying:

"He has adaptable qualities and a high level of tactical understanding. That’s going to serve us very well because he can do it in different positions. Joelinton kicked off the new era as the right-sided forward in a 3-4-3, before moving back to the second striker role he enjoyed at Hoffenheim.In addition to his versatility, Howe is said to have been struck early on by Joelinton’s pressing and technical understanding. After his first stint in midfield against Norwich,"

Howe said:

"His work rate and the amount of ground he covers is incredible.He’s a real team player. … His technique and ability to find space and control the ball in tight areas is of the highest level. I love the lad to bits. I’m really glad he’s performing so well."

Joelinton dropped what was, without a doubt, his best performance to date in a Newcastle shirt in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United, where he partnered Sean Longstaff in midfield.

He controlled the game for Howe’s side, leading the team in touches, completed passes, chances created and forward carries. He also contributed four tackles and as many interceptions.

Joelinton, and by extension Newcastle, have reaped the benefits of a manager with a clear plan and understanding of how to get the most from his players.

A former coach told The Athletic:

"This is exactly what Joe has needed, Someone to show him what he wants, then I promise you, he’ll work so hard to do that. The player himself echoed this sentiment, saying after the United game. Eddie trusts my work ethic and this makes me even more comfortable here. He trusts how I play."

An Uphill Battle Ahead

Newcastle find themselves in a precarious position, in 19th place with just 11 points from 19 games. But there have been marked improvements since Howe took over, and the fact that both players and fans were disappointed to take just one point instead of three from Manchester United is proof of that.

While the squad requires some reinforcements in the January transfer window, Howe has already made progress with the tools available to him.

Upcoming fixtures against fellow strugglers Leeds and Watford represent a great chance for Newcastle to secure much-needed points.

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There is still time to turn this season around, with just two points separating them from the potential safety of 17th place. With a manager who understands and trusts him, Joelinton will be pivotal to Newcastle’s fight against the drop.