Nearly two years on from Miguel Almirón’s £21m move from Atlanta United to Newcastle, the Toon Army can rightly feel a little aggrieved at the Paraguayan’s spell on Tyneside so far.
The forward boasts a measly four Premier League strikes in 48 league appearances for the club, making his MLS strike record of better than a goal every three games seem a distant memory.
The 26-year-old’s arrival at St. James’ Park in January 2019 was met with much fanfare, not least because the club had finally surpassed their previous record purchase of £16m – the fee paid for Michael Owen back in 1927 – but also because the signing represented a desire to bring entertaining football back to the north east.
For too long Newcastle had been a club run on efficiency, with solid and dependable signings brought in to stabilise the club at Premier League level. Surely there’s more to football than that?
With that in mind, it’s clear to see why Newcastle fans have been left somewhat underwhelmed by the impact Paraguay international has had so far. However, while the move hasn’t quite worked out as the Geordie faithful would have hoped – that’s not to say it won’t given time.
When Steve Bruce’s team sheet for his side’s clash with Wolves was announced an hour before kick off on Sunday, just about every media outlet looking to broadcast the Newcastle starting XI was left scratching their heads. FIVE ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS?! What is this sorcery?
Almirón lined up on the left of midfield ahead of Jamal Lewis, and the forward put in a shift which left Bruce beaming from ear to ear by the time he came to embrace the wide man at full-time.
Tasked with shackling the ever-adventurous Nélson Semedo on the Wolves right, Almirón produced a superb defensive performance, proving to be a willing runner all afternoon as he stifled the threat posed by the former Barcelona man.
With the game locked at 0-0, Nuno Espírito Santo introduced yet another ex-Barça man – the jet-heeled Adama Traore – in a bid to unlock the resolute Magpies backline, yet Almirón continued to work for the good of the team, continuously tracking the Spaniard for the remaining 20 minutes and assisting Lewis in his attempts to thwart him.
While Newcastle fans may bemoan the fact that Bruce is churning workmanlike performances from a player with undoubted attacking flair, the fact is Newcastle aren’t in a position to go away from home against a team of Wolves’ calibre and play two or three luxury players who can roam around without tracking the runs made by the opposition.
The emergence of Allan Saint-Maximin has undoubtedly been a positive for Newcastle since his arrival at the club, however, the Frenchman’s licence to roam means players like Almirón take on an added responsibility, and his willingness to adapt his role – while enduring a barren run in front of goal – is testament to his desire to succeed at the club.
If Almirón is to prove a hit on Tyneside then he undoubtedly needs to add more goals and more creativity to his current performances, but his performance at Molineux showed a different facet to his game that many Newcastle fans didn’t realise he had.
Yes, four goals in 48 Premier League appearances is a poor return for a man who was once Newcastle’s record signing, and yes he needs to start to offer more going forward. Yet Almirón’s Molineux showing is proof that there’s hope for him at Newcastle, and he could prove to be a valuable asset at the club as they look to solidify their status as a top-flight team.