Just as Joelinton was about to complete a £40m move to Newcastle last summer, I conducted Q&A with Abel Meszaros – Sport TV’s Bundesliga analyst and a man who’d seen a lot of the Brazilian during his time at Hoffenheim.
At the time he was full of praise for his work rate, physical attributes and dynamism, but he insisted that Joelinton was NOT yet ready to be our “new number 9” that would score goals for fun at St James’ Park.
In our chat below, he highlights several points that make for fascinating reading now the Brazilian has just come off the back of a goal-shy first year on Tyneside, insisting he is a confidence player, is better in a deeper role, may struggle with Bruce’s style of football (and the fewer chances we’ll create for him), stating he was NOT yet a natural finisher at the time of his move to Tyneside last year.
Here’s what he had to say back in July 2019 when I asked if the former Bundesliga talent was the star striker we’d been crying out for:
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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).
“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.
“I’d be really surprised if he went over 10 goals in his first season.”
I never expected Joelinton to struggle as much as he has in his first season at Newcastle, but I must admit that this interview hardly filled me with confidence last summer.
That said, Meszaros’ comments prove that we aren’t doing nearly enough to suit the Brazilian’s style of play.
Yes his touch has let him down too often and he’s rarely looked convincing in front of goal, but playing a confidence player out of position, not creating enough chances for him and expecting him to hold the ball up with his back to goal when he’s best in a supporting role with options ahead of him has made this a real uphill battle.
Not only does he need to be used much differently, we failed to bring in another striker last summer for him to learn from or rely on to A) protect his confidence levels when he’s going through a rough patch or B) allow him to play in a deeper role (which he clearly favours).
It really does sum up our shambolic recruitment strategy when we’ve paid £40m on a striker who’s not even a striker – although he MIGHT just come good now Callum Wilson’s arrival could take the pressure off and allow the 24-year-old to play in a slightly deeper role just behind him?
Let’s hope we can finally play to his strengths in 2020/21 and that he can gain a much needed confidence boost – because the way we used him last season left him looking like a lost boy who couldn’t control a football, despite him being one of the Bundesliga’s most promising talent not so long ago.
He need to up his game, but he also needs a helping hand in what could be a make or break year for the ex-Hoffenheim star.
Hopefully Wilson, Fraser and the more fluid attack that we could well be building can help him thrive in what promises to be a huge second season in the top flight for our big man from Brazil.