A few days on from Joelinton’s £40m arrival at Newcastle United, we’ve caught up with Abel Meszaros – Sport TV Hungary’s Bundesliga analyst – who has shared his fascinating insight into the former Hoffenheim star.
Without further ado, here’s the Q&A we carried out during our chat with the Bundesliga expert – a man who knows him better than most after watching him closely over the last year in Germany:
1) What are his strengths and weaknesses?
“Joelinton’s main strengths include his incredible athleticism (he has been a handful for the likes of Nicolas Otamendi in the Champions League, the Bender twins and even Niklas Süle), his dynamism with or without the ball, his strong pressing and even the ability to man-mark opposing playmakers, as Diego Demme found out Monday.
“His combination and holdup play with clever back heels, lots of quick turns make him an incredibly exciting player to watch and a nightmare to defend.
“He also possesses an ever-improving first touch, excellent upper and lower body strength and raw pace to outrun most defenders, with tremendous ball progression. He can create openings with his dribbling or runs and remains a devastating player in space. He is a fantastic target in the box: with 81 touches in the box he has the same amount as Ante Rebic, Yussuf Poulsen, or Kevin Volland.
“Weaknesses. He isn’t really a number 9 in the classic sense and isn’t what you would call a great\good finisher. He often arrives in the second wave of attacks, but can miss big chances, due to technique.
“He will sometimes struggle to strike the ball cleanly and overhit the target/miss volleys, etc.”
2) Is there any current Premier League player you would compare him to?
“I think a more defensively active, perhaps less consistent Richarlison is a decent comparison.”
3) After selling Perez and failing to resign Rondon we’ve lost two players who scored 55% of our goals last season. Do you believe he can do the business in front of goal? How many would you back him to score next season?
“That’s hard to say, for two reasons..
“1 – The thing with his numbers, which if you are using advanced metrics like expected goals are pretty strong, but that’s more a by-product of him playing for the league’s most attacking team/coach combo in Hoffenheim and Julian Nagelsmann. Only Bayern had better XG numbers than Hoffenheim. The other thing with Joelinton is that while his finishing has improved, but still he has missed a number of big chances in key games and is below his XG output by about 2 goals. He isn’t necessarily a natural, instinctual finisher and can struggle with technical execution (overhitting the goal due to foot placement, leaning back on shots).
“2 – I’m by no means an expert on NUFC style, but with Steve Bruce and the departures of Rondon and Perez, my wild guess would be that stylistically it will be considerably less attacking than that of Hoffenheim under Nagelsmann last year.
“That should create much fewer chances for Joelinton, who to his credit has the physicality and skill to create shots\chances for himself.
“Still, I’d be really surprised if he went over 10 goals in his first season.”
4) What do you know of his attitude and application on the pitch? Considering we’re a little short on quality, we’re a team that relies on giving 110%..
“Basically, that’s another one of his calling cards.
“He’s dynamic without the ball, he presses well and has the ability to man-mark opposing playmakers.
“Also, after 2 years out on loan in the Austrian league at Rapid, even the hardcore Hoffenheim fans (of which there are not many) didn’t expect him to make the squad in preseason. Yet, Nagelsmann and the staff were so impressed with him this time last year, because of his work ethic and dynamism, that he actually started the first match of the season against Bayern!
“What a meteoric rise!”
5) Do you believe the alleged £40m paid was a fair price, a bargain or a bit overpriced? There’s a few worrying this is a big risk and others are hugely excited..
“In my scouting profile, I argued that statistically, physically and style-wise
Ante Rebic (there were a number of £50m rumours after the World Cup, I
think Man Utd were one of the suitors) and Richarlison (signed for £50m last summer) are good comparisons as they all had 1 great season and went for similar prices.
“That being said, I think the risk is perhaps greater, because NUFC’s current situation isn’t ideal and I’m somewhat skeptical that Joelinton is ready to “be the new number 9”.
“If that’s the club’s idea\reason for bringing him, it might be misguided\overly optimistic, as I still think his best role is either a secondary striker, or perhaps as a pressing/defensive oriented number ten behind two strikers in like a 4-3-1-2.”
6) Finally – How do you think he’ll cope with the fact he’s inexperienced, still just 22, yet carrying the pressure of being our club record signing, our new number 9 and the man tasked to do deliver for us in a new league? Can he cope with the demands of the Premier League (both physically and mentally) after just one full season in Germany?
“Physically, he was crushing the Bundesliga, to the point where a few of us
on Bundesliga Twitter were making Godzilla jokes!”
“Given that he’s joining a new team late and that he’s not an established veteran, it could take a while to get used to the new culture\environment.
“He’s also a confidence player and last season there were a lot of things right out of a strong training camp that went right for him in a perfect attacking setup under Nagelsmann. These signs plus NUFC’s current setup under Steve Bruce make skeptical of a hot start and it could be a while (maybe a year or more) until he settles in.”
Fascinating stuff from Abel here.
It sounds to me like he has all the raw attributes to be a huge hit at Premier League level, however there is a few question marks over his role as a central striker and ‘number 9’.
He’s certainly got the size and skill to cause Premier League centre-backs big problems according to Abel, so let’s hope he can really develop into a top goalscorer following his £40m move to Tyneside!