The Curious Case Of Joelinton: Brazilian Has Been Reborn Under Eddie Howe

The £40m signing has been a revelation for Newcastle since switching to a deeper midfield role
14:05, 28 Dec 2021

As Newcastle United turned in a very impressive performance against Manchester United at St James’ Park on Monday night, two players stood out for the hosts. One was the goalscorer Allan Saint-Maximin and the other was Joelinton - who was unquestionably Man of the Match with yet another commanding performance.

The former Hoffenheim man has had a troublesome first two years on Tyneside as a Magpie since signing for a staggering £40million fee and hasn’t been able to showcase his abilities which were frequently on display in the Bundesliga. 

He has received widespread criticism over the last two seasons and in last night’s post-match interview, alongside teammate Sean Longstaff, the interviewer for Sky Sports even pondered disrespectfully: “I didn’t realise you were that good.” It was intended as a compliment but it was a cruel, backhanded one, and Longstaff immediately dubbed criticism towards the South American as a “disgrace”, highlighting the high regard the versatile player holds within the Magpies’ dressing room.

Joelinton has struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League but in recent weeks he has been a revelation playing in a deeper midfield role which has made him one of the most in-form players in the division. He and Saint-Maximin tormented Man United’s right side consistently last night and he is proving to be a very mature individual capable of shining as a box-to-box midfielder. Arriving at the club as a forward for a substantial fee, many expected him to be Newcastle’s key to storming up the table, but with just seven goals in the league to date, Howe had to figure out a way to boost the player’s confidence and become an integral member of the squad.

Speaking on Monday Night Football after the game, Howe explained how they have handled this perfectly-executed transition for the attacker. 

“Initially coming in we thought we’d potentially play him as a number 10, as a second striker,” he told Sky Sports. “But then we went to ten men against Norwich here at home and we reshuffled and played him as an eight. And that night I thought he was absolutely brilliant defensively.

“His tactical understanding of the position was such a high level that then, from that moment on, I thought he has the technical capabilities to play the position. But also, the question mark against any attacking player playing in that role is can he defend? And I think you’ve seen tonight he’s been absolutely brilliant defensively for us. He’s been so willing for the team, his work rate and the amount of ground that he covers is incredible really.

“I can’t praise him enough, since I’ve come in, a real team player, but with such ability as well, I think he can only get better from this point.”

We may be witnessing the birth of a new Joelinton and Howe for one cannot wait to see how much further the 25-year-old develops. For a player who hadn't played this role until only a few weeks ago due to a sending off, never has an attacker looked so at home playing a deeper role, being just as excellent defensively as bursting forward. 

Newcastle fans will be excited with what they have seen so far and they’ll be hoping that plenty more is to come in their survival quest. From club scapegoat to the industrious midfielder, Joelinton is now a firm favourite amongst the Magpies faithful. That £40million looks more worth it with each game he’s playing in the heart of midfield.

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