Newcastle striker Dwight Gayle started our opening two games against Spurs and Huddersfield, with new boy Joselu starting against West Ham and Swansea – two games we have gone on to win. Coincidence? Possibly not if the following stats are anything to go by.
Across the opening two games of the season, Gayle touched the ball just 30 times, winning 4 aerial challenges and mustering just 3 shots. He put a shift in against Spurs in what proved to be a thankless task with 10 men, however had little sight of goal as the stats suggest, gaining very few touches of the ball – especially away at Huddersfield where he was anonymous to put it kindly.
In Joselu’s last two games the 6ft 3′ Spaniard has touched the ball 81 times (almost treble that of Gayle), won 12 aerial duels and had 8 shots, scoring 1 against West Ham and very nearly bagging another against Swansea with a glancing header.
It’s hard to criticise Gayle. In the Championship he wasn’t used as our focal point. Instead he would provide a nuisance upfront whose movement would be relied upon, however Joselu’s involvement has suggested a change of style from Benitez for the Premier League.
Given our new counter-attacking style, Benitez appears to be favouring a target man who can hold the ball and bring others into play once attacks are instigated, with the stats suggesting Gayle’s silent but deadly nature is struggling to suit our new style.
It’s early days of course, but this is one to watch, with Joselu sneaking his way past last season’s top scorer in the pecking order.