Few were expecting Newcastle to deliver one of the best performances of the weekend, let alone us as supporters. I was fearing the worst going into the game, believing that the takeover would serve as a distraction.
However, I was very happy to be proved wrong as we ran out 3-0 winners. According to Infogol, the expected goals (xG) of the match was 1.95 – 0.71 in our favour, showing that it was a deserved three points.
The performance of Joelinton emerged as the standout story from the match, even if he didn’t come out as the man of the match.
When he was named on the team-sheet, many speculated that it could be a huge day for the Brazilian. It looked like it was following a similar story as before lockdown, as he scuffed a guilt-edged chance in the first half.
However, he didn’t hide away after that missed chance and he reaped the rewards in the second half. It could be said that this highlighted one of the benefits of playing behind closed doors, as Joelinton didn’t have to hear the moans and groans from the stands. His movement led to John Egan getting a second yellow card, which opened up the game.
Before being taken off, he got his rewards with the team’s third goal. It wasn’t a memorable strike, but his desire to get into the box showed a striking instinct that we previously haven’t seen from the Brazilian.
According to WhoScored, Joelinton had four shots, made one key pass and won six aerial duels. This is an impressive striking display, but he regularly got into dangerous areas and showed that he is capable of holding the ball up. Further to this, he completed 80% of his passes, proving that he is able to keep the ball and bring others into play.
Looking deeper into the numbers on Understat, Joelinton has a season average of 1.77 shots and 0.22 xG per ninety minutes. In the match against Sheffield United, he had four shots and an xG of 1.19. It was easily his standout performance of the season and he should take a great deal of confidence from it. Steve Bruce will know that he needed his number nine to start strongly following lockdown and his goal seconds before being taken off capped off an excellent striking display.
It was easy for those watching to mock Joelinton following his first half miss, as it was an opportunity that a player worth £40 million should be doing a lot better with. Although the miss was disappointing, it was the manner of his finish that raised the biggest doubts. It lacked any sort of conviction and underlined the confidence issues that he has had.
That said, the fact that he managed to get in behind the defence and get the chance in the first place was encouraging. Before the break, he wasn’t doing that.
His work rate also showed improvement, as he was willing to chase lost causes. This is one of the main reasons why Egan was sent off. Without the desire and physicality of Joelinton, the centre-back wouldn’t have been forced into the tactical foul. This play alone opened up the game and put the result beyond doubt.
Over the coming weeks, there will be rotation in the forward line. Joelinton won’t play every minute, but this performance will puts him in a strong position to be first choice.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but this performance gives Joelinton a platform to build from.