The return of Callum Wilson looked to be important before a ball was kicked on Friday night. Although the England international managed to get on the score-sheet, he was overshadowed by his strike partner Joelinton.
The Brazilian’s good performances in black and white can be counted on one hand, but the encouraging sign is that two of them have arrived this season, in a role off Wilson.
The record signing was brought in as a number nine, in a role that didn’t suit him. He looked lost and many wrote him off. Based on Friday night, he could yet develop into a success on Tyneside.
It was an excellent all-around performance from Joelinton, as he was constantly involved in the match at Selhurst Park.
During the match, he attempted seven of the team’s 14 shots. He was always at the end of our moves and showed an intelligence in the final third. Despite this, there was a clear lack of confidence in his finishing. His last minute goal needed a deflection to end up in the back of the net. It will be hoped that his shooting improves following that goal, but the more important thing is that he keeps getting into the right positions.
At the time of writing before the matches on Sunday and Monday, no player in the Premier League had attempted more shots than the Brazilian this weekend. Three of his strikes hit the target and his chances came to a total of 0.57 xG (expected goals).
As you can see above, playing as part of a two also allowed Joelinton to drop deep and get plenty of touches on the ball. During the match, he had 65 touches of the ball. No player in the team has more, which underlines how involved he was in South London. He showed some creativity too, with his hold up play and through ball to assist Wilson displaying his class.
Joelinton made one key pass, won six aerial duels and completed two dribbles. Without Allan Saint-Maximin, he was central to the side’s build up play and he regularly chose the right decision in the attacking half. In addition to having the highest xG in the team, he also ended the match with the highest xA (expected assists) at 0.45.
It was in possession that Joelinton impressed most, but he was tireless in his work rate. Steve Bruce can set the team up to be passive out of possession and it frustrates supporters. However, on Friday, Joelinton was pressing opposition players and having some success. He completed four tackles and made two interceptions. Only Javier Manquillo (6) made more tackles for us on Friday night.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but Steve Bruce should now show belief in Joelinton. It has been a turbulent year for him as he adapts to Premier League football and he has been used wrongly for the most part. We have now found a role that suits him as a support striker to Callum Wilson. If we persist with this, it could bring out the best in the forward and as confidence grows, he should get even better.
It is only one game, but there is reason to believe in Joelinton again.