The Magpies have not won in the top flight since the opening day of the season against Nottingham Forest and Eddie Howe picked out the lack of service to Alexander Isak as one of the reasons behind their latest draw.
He said: “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.”
Newcastle struggled to find him in the right areas as their build-up lacked pace and direction, which is a problem the manager will need to solve ahead of their clash with Fulham.
One way in which he can help to unlock the Sweden international, who was described as a “unicorn” by Radio presenter Kev Lawson, is by unleashing Sven Botman from the start.
“We managed their load in the week where we had three games (against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers), so today was bringing Dan back. I just feel his leadership skills and his experience, we need that in our team at the moment.
“Sven’s going to be an outstanding player, and will play many, many games for this club. We love him to bits, but Dan just gets the nod at the moment.”
Playing the ex-Brighton man ahead of Botman weakens Newcastle’s play in possession of the ball as the Dutchman is more adept at playing out from the back.
Botman, who Josh Bunting has described as “dominant” and “powerful“, ranks in a higher percentile than Burn in pass accuracy, progressive carries, progressive passes, total passing distance, xG assisted, and progressive passing distance per 90 among centre-backs in Europe’s top five leagues over the past 365 days.
This shows that the former Lille defender is more forward-thinking and accomplished in his passing, as he progresses his team up the pitch more effectively than the Englishman.
A good example of his ability on the ball came in the recent 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace as Botman’s play out from the back helped Isak to get involved in the game. His composed pass between the lines (2:30) to the striker found him in space in the second half and he was unlucky not to register an assist as Joe Willock’s shot was brilliantly saved by Vincente Guaita.
Isak was afforded two ‘big chances’ in the match and, whilst he did not score, this highlights how the team’s build-up gave him more opportunities going forward.
Botman’s passing between the lines and progressive carries can get players into good positions in midfield, whether that is the former Real Sociedad man or a midfielder who can then play a killer ball to the striker. This is why unleashing him from the start ahead of Burn could help to unlock Isak’s full potential at St. James’ Park.