Don’t get me wrong, Joelinton hasn’t looked anything like a £40m player this season, but it’s time we forgot his price tag and gave credit where it’s due – and he deserves plenty for his role in last night’s big win over the Baggies.
After playing on the left-hand side over the weekend, Bruce moved him back up top at The Hawthorns, however this time he had far more support than he’s been used to, with a trio of Saint-Maximin, Almiron and Lazaro all playing just off him.
He benefited from that extra bit of support, yet it was actually his unselfish play and running that played a key role in allowing all three to thrive.
The Brazilian did a LOT of the ugly work well, made several good runs to stretch the West Brom defence and also bagged a brilliant assist via a clever back-heel for Almiron’s second.
He almost scored a brilliant goal from the left, bursting past his man, cutting in and unleashing a decent shot which was parried away, but it was his work that helped the team / allowed others to come into play that stood out.
Again, I’m not suggesting he suddenly looked a £40m player – some of his hold up play was slack and he snatched at a few shots – but his unselfish running, his countless number of defensive headers away and his ability to create space for others helped contribute to a far more fluid attacking display.
For once he had fellow attackers close to him, with Almiron often close by (remember how far apart the two were when they last started up top together in that 3-1 defeat at Norwich ?!) and Saint-Maximin and Lazaro also giving him options out wide.
After abuse from fans – both at St James’ Park and on social media – and heavy criticism from the press (Craig Hope wrote an article in the Mail this week saying he’s ‘the worst transfer in recent Premier League history’), it’s only right to praise him for his part in our progression to the FA Cup quarter finals.
With us failing to score in our last four in the league and winning just 1 in 10 ahead of a crucial run of fixtures, let’s hope he can continue to thrive in this 4-2-3-1 system.
If it means he becomes more of a creator and enabler for the three attackers behind him, so be it, because for the first time in a long while, we finally looked like a side capable of scoring last night!