After the scoreless draw at Brighton on Monday, Steve Bruce hinted that a new striker could be in his summer plans.
It’s hardly a secret that Newcastle will have to focus on bringing in some goal scorers this summers. In fact, that was also the plan in January, but the club maintained that they couldn’t find one that would improve the side.
So three loan players were brought on board, and Bruce moved forth with the four strikers he had despite three of them – Andy Carroll, Dwight Gayle, and Yoshinori Muto – being injured at the time the winter window closed.
So it was up to Joelinton to continue trying to adapt to the number nine role, a task that he was finding increasingly difficult. But Bruce finally relented after the 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace and switched the formation to a flat back four while adding another attacker upfront.
It also happened to coincide with Dwight Gayle returning from his latest injury battle of this season. Gayle led the line against Burnley with Almiron playing behind him while Joelinton was pushed to the left.
That’s basically been Bruce’s thinking since then. He’s preferred the natural poaching abilities of Gayle upfront and generally played Joelinton on either side.
But even that’s changed over the past three matches where Joelinton, who previously started 32 of 34 league fixtures, has been limited to late substitute appearances.
Bruce may now see our record signing as a wide forward for next season should he still be at the helm. This is what he said after the Brighton match:
“I think we need four or five players to add to the squad of players we’ve got. So, we’ll go to work on that.
“I’ve always said with Jo (Joelinton), I think he’s better playing to a side, that suits him, so it’s quite possible that a center-forward could be on the list, yeah.”
It’s possible that Bruce may have given up on playing Joelinton as an out and out striker. He’s spoken throughout the year about how it’s going to take time for Joelinton to adapt to playing an unfamiliar position in the hardest league in the world.
Perhaps, if Bruce is still on board this summer, he’ll have a reset during the preseason to take stock of where Joelinton is and if he will have another go at striker.
Bruce has seemingly worked tirelessly with Joelinton, instructing him on where he needs to improve to become a better finisher. Joelinton admitted as much recently.
The Chronicle has published some comments the Brazilian made to Premier League Productions just before the Brighton match.
This is what he said about the work he’s put in during this season and in the past:
“Yes, all season he’s demanded this of me, demanded that I needed to be a bit greedier or more selfish. I’ve always got this desire to score goals, to finish and it’s not just Steve Bruce that’s demanding this of me. Other coaches have previously.
“However, if I see a team-mate in a better position, I will always look to pass to them but, also, if I get the chance, I will look to score.
“It’s what the fans want, it’s what the coaches want – a first touch finish – and the goal against Sheffield United was very characteristic of what we’ve been doing in training. You know, for me to be in the area.
“They want me to be there available in the area and finish with one touch. I think that really represents what we’re doing in training and we’re very happy with everything.”
It’ll be very interesting to see where Joelinton gets played next season, whether under Bruce or whoever his replacement is should the takeover get pushed through.
And Joelinton, for his part, has pledged that the fans will see a better player next season:
“The Premier League is the best competition in the world. It’s where the best players play. You have the best teams and the best managers so it was definitely a challenge coming into the Premier League which is so competitive and every game is so disputed.
“But I knew it would be difficult when I came here and I’m happy for the experience and the possibility to settle in and adapt and definitely there will be improvements next season.
“That’s what I hope for and that’s what I’m working hard towards and I’m very happy. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but that’s always been the case in my career and I’ve always worked hard to do well.”