Allan Saint-Maximin set for his biggest test yet as we await Steve Bruce’s successor?

It’s fair to say that the vast majority of Newcastle fans adore Allan Saint Maximin, and rightly so. It’s been a fairly drab affair supporting and watching us in the past two years, and without him would have been considerably more so.

The Frenchman is widely regarded as our best player, and let’s be honest, him and Callum Wilson were the only vaguely interesting or enjoyable aspects about Steve Bruce’s tenure.

He is our talisman, and the current carrier of all hope for excitement and entertainment in the current squad. The results and points per game ratio when he’s in the team are there for all to see.

He isn’t however, above criticism. It’s also fair to say he hasn’t been at the races in the last three games. At Wolves and against Spurs, he looked lost and disinterested, but at Palace he was simply atrocious.

Is it a just a blip, or is there genuine concern to be had looking forward? History suggests there might be. One thing is almost certain, that under the next coach/manager we’ll find out just what he’s made of, and just how good he is.

When he arrived at Newcastle from Nice in a the farcical summer of 2019, he did so with a warning label. Undoubted talent, unbounded potential, but questionable attitude and dedication.

Two of his former coaches at Nice, Lucien Favre and Patrick Viera, had publicly criticised him for a lack of professionalism, and he found himself in and out of the team. Viera once warned the player through the French media that just having talent wasn’t enough in the modern game.

A mere few months after his arrival, we were all scoffing at their words, and other warnings. Not only was he the most exciting and naturally talented player since Hatem Ben Arfa, he also endeared himself off the pitch, with his sterling work with the NUFC foodbanks, and his impressive presence on social media. Some of his takedowns of Mackem trolls on Twitter have been as filthy as some of his dribbling.

For all Bruce’s significant failings, his relationship with Saint Maximin was a rare beacon of light, but it may well present his successor with a problem.

It’s doubtful that there is any other player, at any other club, in any other of Europe’s top flight divisions, that has enjoyed a positional and tactical “carte blanche” as much as Bruce afforded Saint Maximin. He played where he wanted, had no defensive responsibility, and no tactical discipline required of him.

If you look at his Newcastle career to date, he’s basically gone from a left winger, to a number 10, to a split striker, and now, well who knows what he is. He ended the defeat to Wolves as a lone striker, at Palace he seemed to run down blind alleys and lose the ball constantly with very little awareness of what was around him. When we don’t have the ball, which is on average around 70% of every game, it’s like having 10 men at times, and if you think that’s harsh, I’d refer to 4 points from 9 games and the second worse defensive record in the league. It’s time to ask serious questions about his suitability to play in this free role he seemingly craves.

From speaking to several Newcastle fans this week, an overwhelming majority still regard him as a winger who is more dangerous playing from the wing. It’s his best position.

Whoever our next coach is, it’s nailed on they will demand more of Saint Maximin than Bruce did. While simply putting the fastest and most skilful player you have up top and hoping he produces something, is exactly the kind of primitive approach that you’d expect from Bruce, it simply isn’t sustainable in the modern game.

Bruce’s successor should, and will almost certainly play him wide again. Not only will he likely be required to pull his weight more defensively, but he’ll probably be required to be a cog in a far more effective attacking unit, rather than be entirely the main event.

Saint Maximin’s starting positions, awareness and end product still need improvement and consistency. He needs to be coached, and how he reacts to it will be fascinating. Will there be fireworks, tantrums and disagreements? His past certainly indicates there could be. Or has he matured enough to deal with constructive criticism and take on advice to improve?

If whoever our next manager is can get into his head, and add a far greater tactical awareness and team ethic to his obvious and prodigious technical ability, and physical prowess, we could be talking about a world class player.

We’re at the start of what is hopefully a really exciting time for the club, and there isn’t one of us who isn’t hoping that Saint Maximin is a big part of taking us onto bigger and better things. We hope that’s what’s in the script, but maybe we should be prepared for a plot twist.

One thought on “Allan Saint-Maximin set for his biggest test yet as we await Steve Bruce’s successor?

  1. When ASM isn’t playing well, as happened against C.Palace he needs to graft for the team.
    If Favre comes in he will be substituted before he can blink.
    In fact he could be sold in January, no room for luxury players in the position we are in!

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