Steve Bruce must wield the axe on Miguel Almiron and bench the Paraguayan once again when Newcastle United host Liverpool on Wednesday night.
Almiron earned his eighth start of the Premier League season as the Toon were beaten 2-0 at Manchester City on Boxing Day, yet he failed to show why Bruce has now called on the 26-year-old for minutes in all bar one of the St. James’ Park natives’ top-flight fixtures thus far.
Pep Guardiola’s Sky Blues were able to double their advantage through Ferran Torres 10 minutes into the second period after the Spaniard was gifted possession when Almiron and Federico Fernandez both failed to clear the danger.
Almiron’s attempted clearance was lazy and handed the ball straight to Joao Cancelo to take over possession deep in Newcastle territory and while his cross was intercepted by Fernandez, the Argentine could only lay the ball on a silver platter for Torres to strike home.
Rarely did Almiron venture forward and offer a threat, either, with his delivery to Joelinton moments before the half-time break his only truly telling contribution as United laboured to a sixth defeat in 14 league games with a mere 25% of the total possession.
Bruce ultimately chose to haul Almiron off as his third and final substitute of the night to introduce Dwight Gayle eight minutes from time, and must now see a reason to bench Newcastle’s £21m former club-record signing again.
Bruce explained earlier this season why he chose to leave Almiron out of his starting squad to face West Ham United on the opening day, noting how he felt the former MLS star lacked the physicality to match David Moyes’ squad.
“I left him out – I think you all know what I think of Almiron, he’s a manager’s delight – I made a call on Saturday because we needed to be able to match West Ham physically, otherwise the game might have been out of sight for us,” Bruce said, via quotes by the Chronicle.
Bruce added: “He put in a wonderful pass today. He’s a great player,” after Almiron came off the bench to register his only assist of the season thus far, yet that same output was lacking at Manchester City on Saturday as the £42,000-per-week playmaker failed to find the same wavelength as his teammates.
Almiron could only produce 19 accurate passes and two successful crosses from four deliveries at the Etihad Stadium, though contributing a team-high two key balls, per SofaScore, as United struggled to find a way for the former Atlanta United star to get on the ball in threatening positions.
He additionally failed to register a single shot whilst Jacob Murphy unleashed three efforts from the opposing wing. He also lost two of his mere four ground duels, lost possession eight times and made a single attempted dribble.
Bruce can ill-afford to have Almiron struggle at a similar level when Newcastle host Liverpool on Wednesday night, as chances to create openings could be be few and far between against another side allowing among the lowest shots per game in the league this season.