Newcastle and Eddie Howe are juggling the increased expectations around St James’ Park… to live up to them his side MUST start getting a tune out of new £60m man Alexander Isak
- Newcastle have won once so far this season and toiled again on Saturday
- Club are getting to grips with the increased expectations around their new state
- They must begin getting a tune out of Alexander Isak to achieve success
There is frustration on Tyneside, but only because expectation has escalated. Understandably so, given the money spent and the fine job Eddie Howe has done since January.
But now Newcastle are being met with fresh challenges, simultaneously having to learn how to break down opponents set up to contain, while also working out a way to get the best from £60million Alexander Isak. The answer to the latter could well provide the solution to the former.
The record books state that club-record signing Isak has scored two in three since arriving from Real Sociedad, but all of the talk at St James’ Park on Saturday — and two weeks prior following a home stalemate with Crystal Palace — was of an isolated figure not yet in tune with his team-mates.
Alexander Isak has cut an increasingly isolated figure for Newcastle in his appearances so far
There is a feeling his qualities, at least for now, will be better suited to playing away from home, as witnessed during his debut at Liverpool when twice stealing clear of the backline before finishing superbly. A marginal offside denied him the second of those goals.
Isak was bought to make the difference in games such as this against Bournemouth, whose low block and rigid structure were a mark of respect but also a new headache for Howe.
And while his new Swedish striker earned a point with a well-taken penalty, it was the sole occasion in which he had space in the box. Little wonder he grabbed the ball after a VAR check spotted Jefferson Lerma’s handball. Howe acknowledges the need to work with the young striker.
Eddie Howe must find a way to get a tune out of his new Swedish forward to achieve success
‘He’s learning, and not just how the team plays, but also how his team-mates play,’ said the head coach, whose side had 73 per cent possession and 20 shots.
‘Again, there were flashes from him, but I don’t think, as a team, we did well enough to get him into goalscoring positions. We didn’t feed him the ball early enough. He was a little bit isolated.
‘But let’s look at the positives — he took his penalty brilliantly and he worked hard for the team. He definitely contributed, but we know we can get him involved a lot more than that.’
Kieran Trippier echoed those sentiments. ‘It’s more about developing as a team and finding his strengths,’ said the captain. ‘Everyone has seen what he’s all about. I’ve played against him in La Liga. He plays off the shoulder, he’s quick, he’s good in the air. We’ve got an all-round striker, for such a young age.’
Isak is 22 years old and one Swedish journalist present believes Newcastle have paid a high premium for potential, flagging inconsistency as a concern in his homeland.
A Swedish journalist present at the game believes Newcastle have paid a high price for potential – flagging Isak’s inconsistency as a concern
Former Newcastle great Malcolm Macdonald, meanwhile, said during Saturday’s game that Isak will benefit from the return of Callum Wilson, a player more suited to the demands of a central striker role.
Howe hinted as much afterwards. ‘He is a versatile player and we obviously moved him briefly to wide left when Chris Wood came on,’ he said. ‘He can play in a slightly deeper role as well, so there is flexibility with him.’
But how Newcastle need Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin back in their team. While the owners have invested in excess of £200m since January, they haven’t addressed one of the greatest areas of need — wingers.
Howe inherited a wreck of a defence and has built from the back. His side have lost just once this season, and that came in the 98th minute at Anfield. The flip side is that they have not won since the opening day against Nottingham Forest. Minus Saint-Maximin, they lack a dribbler capable of disrupting obdurate opposition.
But credit, too, to Bournemouth and caretaker Gary O’Neil, whose team led through Philip Billing and were good value for a point which makes it five from three matches under his charge. An impending takeover has complicated his situation, but sticking with O’Neil is their best option on this evidence.
They are level on points with Newcastle, and that is why frustration lingers at St James’ Park.
Match Facts: Newcastle v Bournemouth, Premier League
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Pope 6.5; Trippier 6.5, Schar 6, Burn 6.5, Targett 6.5; Willock 6.5, Guimaraes 6.5 (Longstaff 72min, 6), Joelinton 6.5; Almiron 6.5 Wood 89), Isak 6, Fraser 6 (Murphy 71, 6).
Scorer: Isak 67 (pen).
Booked: Joelinton, Targett.
Manager: Eddie Howe 6.5.
Bournemouth (4-2-3-1): Neto 7; Smith 6, Mepham 6.5, Senesi 6.5, Zemura 6.5; Cook 7, Lerma 6; Tavernier 6.5, Anthony 80), Billing 7 (Stephens 90), CHRISTIE 7.5 (Stacey 87); Solanke 6.5 (Moore 90).
Scorer: Billing 62.
Booked: Tavernier, Christie.
Manager: Gary O’Neil 7.
Referee: Craig Pawson 7.