The outstanding Toon talent who could save our Saudi owners millions this summer

Elliot Anderson has had a burgeoning reputation for quite some time. It feels like he should be older than 19, considering he has been on the fringes for a while.

The tenure of Steve Bruce was a challenging one for him, as he was poorly managed. The young attacker didn’t get a fair chance in the first team or get sent out on loan. It wasn’t a good period of development for him, but he is now making up for lost time on loan at Bristol Rovers.

When it was announced that he would be joining Bristol Rovers on loan, it wasn’t seen as the best move for him. League Two isn’t the standard that supporters expected him to gain experience at, especially when he was heavily linked to promotion chasing Championship outfit Luton Town.

However, first team football was crucial for Anderson after a difficult two seasons in professional football. He is getting that under Joey Barton in the South West and he is emerging into the mainstream due to some excellent performances.

Anderson has played 13 times for Bristol Rovers, totalling 1041 minutes. He made his debut from the bench, but since then, he has been a permanent fixture in the starting eleven. This underlines how important he has become to the team’s promotion push. During this period, he has contributed three goals and two assists. These numbers don’t jump out, but Rovers’ fans are regularly talking about the attacker as one of the best players they have ever seen at the club. 

Graham Carr’s recent quotes about Anderson make for interesting reading and emphasise how he is viewed in the football world. For those that haven’t been following him closely in League Two, it should whet the appetite for what is to come.

There is a lot to like about his underlying numbers during his loan spell. He is averaging 0.17 xG per ninety minutes, which suggests he isn’t the main goal threat in the team. However, he is regularly shooting with an average of 2.95 shots per ninety minutes. 

He is regularly involved in the play, with 4.31 touches in the penalty area per ninety minutes. Anderson has an ability to get into dangerous positions often in a game and that has been a quality missing from our wide players at times this season. 

Aside from his obvious technical ability with the ball, Anderson is a tenacious player without the ball. He is averaging 3.75 pressure regains per ninety minutes. There have been plenty of occasions where he has managed to nick the ball back in the opposition half and this is an ability that will suit Eddie Howe’s system at Newcastle. It would have been easy for the 19-year-old to think the pressing work was beneath him at League Two, but his effort without the ball speaks of his excellent work rate.

For anyone that hasn’t seen his goal against Harrogate Town, it is worth watching above. It is the best example of his raw ability, as he picks the ball up on the left flank near the halfway line. He carries the ball into the penalty area beating three opposition defenders before finishing superbly. The composure and ball carrying ability indicate that he has a future at a much higher level. 

There will be a growing desire for Anderson to be given a chance in our squad next season and it could make sense. He won’t need to be registered for the Premier League squad and he is able to cover in a variety of attacking positions. At Bristol Rovers, he has predominantly played as a number ten or a left winger, but he is capable of operating on the right. His assist against Stevenage saw him beat his marker on the right flank before crossing smartly to the goal-scorer.

One of Howe’s biggest challenges is the management of Anderson. We haven’t managed to produce an exciting attacking player for the first team in a long time. Hopefully, it will become more and more common as the academy improves, but for the short term, Anderson is our best hope. 
Another loan spell could be the best move, but there will be a temptation to keep him at St James’ Park next season. 

Stats taken from Statsbomb

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