Steve Bruce must wield the axe on Joelinton against Liverpool on Wednesday night with Newcastle United set to welcome Callum Wilson back from injury.
Joelinton led the line as the Toon’s sole centre-forward in defeat to Manchester City on Boxing Day, having seen his partner in crime sidelined after sustaining an ankle issue during last week’s Carabao Cup quarter-final loss at Brentford.
Bruce sought not to risk Wilson away to the Citizens having seen the striker prove a pivotal aspect of his plans since joining in a £20m deal this summer, with the ex-AFC Bournemouth hitman accounting for 47% of the Magpie’s 17 Premier League goals thus far this season.
But according to The Northern Echo, Wilson is expected to feature against Liverpool in Wednesday night’s meeting at home to the Anfield natives, while teammate Jonjo Shelvey is also likely to be recalled after missing the Manchester City loss through fatigue.
Bruce should not hesitate to drop Joelinton for Wilson should the former Cherries star be passed fit, having sorely missed the England international against Pep Guardiola’s Sky Blues.
Joelinton offered nothing at the Etihad Stadium during Saturday’s 2-0 defeat, as the £18m-rated Brazilian cut an invisible figure in the final third for most of the game with a tame header sent wide of the post his only shot of the match, per SofaScore.
He additionally offered no key balls among a mere 12 accurate passes with a 67% completion rate, attempted no dribbles, was caught offside once, made two fouls and lost four of five ground duels.
Joelinton’s sole strength came in the air with success in six of 11 duels, but failed to deliver the attacking threat Wilson brings to the table despite Bruce often urging the £40m striker to improve.
Bruce believes the fee Newcastle paid TSG Hoffenheim in 2019 has counted against Joelinton, but the time for excuses has now passed.
“Sometimes you need time – it doesn’t matter about the price-tag,” Bruce said in November, via quotes by Reuters. “In Joe’s case, the price-tag meant he struggled at times.
“But the kid wants to do well. He had a lot of opportunities, but we are starting to see him now with his strength.”