Barring a remarkable collapse over the final few weeks of the season, Newcastle United should remain in the Premier League for another year. While a mediocre campaign where survival seemed the only ambition isn’t ideal for supporters, there have been some bright sparks for the Magpies. Not least the performances of Allan Saint-Maximin.
The changes might not be as drastic as some hope in the short term, but there are positive signs on Tyneside. Newcastle have already demonstrated they can mix it with some of the better teams in the division this term. Bet365 are one of the biggest betting sites in the world, consistently ranking well in the top AU bookmaker listing. They made Steve Bruce’s side 11/4 (3.75) underdogs beat West Ham at the London Stadium before the 2-0 win on the first day of the season. The odds weren’t too different for the 3-2 win over the Hammers in the reverse fixture, either, where Newcastle were priced as outsiders at 12/5 (3.40). Completing a league double over a team that are chasing a Champions League spot certainly offers hope for an often frustrated fanbase.
While these results aren’t enough to be considered progress in isolation, they demonstrate that positive steps can be made in the coming months. Despite an injury-hit season, the stats suggest that Saint-Maximin can be the catalyst for the club striving for bigger and better things in the future. Even in his limited time on the field this term, the Frenchman has demonstrated the kind of creativity sorely lacking in other areas of the squad.
According to Football Critic, Saint-Maximin has created 6 “big chances” this season, which’s more than anyone else in the team despite only starting 14 matches. His ability on the ball is undoubtedly a strong point with 5 completed dribbles per 90 minutes, more than twice the amount of any other player within the same timeframe. The 24-year-old ranks second in assists with four for the season, although his assists per 90 minutes played, which is likely a better indicator based on how much time he’s missed, is the best at 0.31.
Having completed a full 90 minutes for the first time since November 2020 during the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield, fans will hope that Saint-Maximin regains his status as a permanent fixture within the team. His influence was undoubtedly missed during his time on the side-lines when recovering from the long-term effects of COVID-19, as well as a recent groin injury that forced him to miss four games.
What makes the displays he’s been capable of all the more impressive is that the player only arrived at Newcastle in the summer of 2019, signing from Ligue 1 side Nice for an undisclosed fee. Given how quickly he has not only gotten up to speed but proved a vital contributor in back-to-back seasons, others have begun to pay attention. Eye-catching performances like his hat-trick of assists in the 4-1 win over Southampton last July have understandably drawn plaudits and awareness within the media with a move away from St James’ Park often mooted by pundits.
However, Saint-Maximin signed an improved contract with the club in October 2020. While the six-year term is unlikely to come to fruition, it does act as a potential buffer from approaches in the short term and will hopefully ensure the player can continue his development in the North East. With a spate of injuries now behind him, hopefully, the talented Frenchman can continue to show what he’s capable of on the field, something that will be a spectacle to behold when fans make their long-awaited return to Premier League grounds next season.