NUFC’s most improved player to be our secret weapon over the final 9 games of the season?

Miguel Almiron has had a mixed season so far.

It was a great moment against Crystal Palace when he managed to get his first goal for the club. Since then, he has managed to score a further five times across all competitions. Although that provides him a platform to go on from, Steve Bruce will be expecting even more from the Paraguayan after the restart. 

According to Understat, Almiron has a total expected goals (xG) of 5.81 in the Premier League, but he has scored only twice. This is a significant underperformance that should highlight a concern about the midfielder’s finishing ability and composure in front of goal. This was particularly true before he managed to score his first Magpies’ goal, as he seemed to be forcing the issue. 

Throughout the season, Almiron has averaged 1.58 shots and 0.71 key passes per ninety minutes. This is a decrease from his short period under Rafa Benitez, in which he averaged 2.21 shots and 1.51 key passes per ninety minutes. This can be attributed to the more defensive style under Bruce and his positioning on the right wing.

The Paraguayan international has started on the right 19 times this season. It has become obvious that this isn’t his best position. He is far more effective in a central role, which he was used in before the break. 

Against West Brom, his movement was excellent and he showed his end product, with a brace. In addition to his two goals, he made two key passes and caused numerous problems with his movement. In the final game, he was a threat against Southampton, with two shots, two completed dribbles and one key pass. In both matches, his pass success rate was above 85%, compared to his season average of 78.7%.

These stats show that Almiron carries a threat when used in a central role and that he is more comfortable manoeuvring the ball. It is only a small sample size, but it should provide encouragement ahead of the restart. 

There will be a number of players looking to impress, but Almiron has the potential to become the most important player in the team. The club showed their faith in him when they paid out a big fee to bring him to this country from the MLS. His critics remain out in force, as he has been very inconsistent since the move.

That said, there were signs of significant improvement before the break, as he was used in a more natural central role. His pace and ability to run behind the opposition defence means that he can be dangerous in these areas, with centre-backs less likely to have the same physical capacity. Almiron is the player to watch when the Premier League resumes.

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