Callum Wilson badly let Steve Bruce down as Newcastle United lost 2-0 at Aston Villa by producing an invisible performance on Saturday night.
The Toon have now lost five on the bounce as part of a 10-game winless run across all competitions, as they slipped ever closer to the relegation zone with seven points all that separates the St. James’ Park natives and 18th-placed Fulham, who have a game in hand.
The Magpies never looked likely to take a result at Villa Park with United passive when out of possession, sloppy when on the ball, showing no desire to drag themselves out of their slump and with no clear vision of how things will, or can, turn themselves around.
Wilson, for his part, will claim his torrid night in Birmingham was down to a lack of service, with Newcastle’s top-scorer often unable to get on the ball. But even when he had possession, the £20m summer signing never instilled confidence that a goal was coming.
That was the clear view of former Sunderland striker Darren Bent, who claimed during his punditry duties that Wilson lacked the grit and desire seen from his Villans counterpart, Ollie Watkins.
“He works really hard and carries a goal threat,” Bent told Sky Sports. “If you look at Callum Wilson, he never looked like getting a goal today. But Watkins never stopped working. I thought his performance was very, very good.”
Watkins had gone into Saturday night’s Premier League affair without a goal in his last 10 appearances across all competitions, but broke the deadlock in the 11th minute when he reacted quickly to Fabian Schar’s sliced clearance and headed past Karl Darlow.
Even with Schar’s involvement in Villa taking the lead, Wilson was the one who truly let Bruce down on his latest return to the Birmingham-based outfit.
Wilson frequently drifted wide in search of possession yet could not spot the runs being made, and went a while in the middle of the match without being sighted as Newcastle supposedly sought a route back into the game.
That route certainly never seemed likely to come from their £46,000-per-week marksman, who ended the night without a single shot or key pass to his name and only took one touch inside Emiliano Martinez’s penalty area, per WhoScored.
Even Jeff Hendrick, who Chronicle Live claimed was anonymous, took a shot on goal and created a chance for United to score, while recording vastly more touches (56) than Wilson (28), who took the second-least by a player who started for either side. Only Andy Carroll (26) took fewer, having been hauled off with 19 minutes still to play.
Bruce may not have expected Wilson to see much more of the ball than he did, having only averaged 28 touches per league game this season but the clear lack of quality shown by Wilson when he was in possession hurt Newcastle, with the former Bournemouth striker usually taking 1.6 shots a game and converting one in three of his efforts, per SofaScore.
If Newcastle are to get out of their slump, they are going to need Wilson to recover some of his wavering form promptly, as Bruce cannot afford to be let down like this again from the man he chose to sign over Aston Villa’s £33m Watkins having looked into both.
AND in other news, Newcastle face a fight to sign a £7m-rated target who “destroys” danger.