This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Christian Atsu has played well since Steve Bruce came into the club, and if Miguel Almiron doesn’t step up soon it is a change the manager should consider.
Almiron has enjoyed his spell on international duty as he scored the winner for Paraguay against Hungary last week, a goal that should give him a great deal of confidence, however he still has no goals or assists in 12 top flight outings this term.
With his impressive outing for his country in mind, he deserves a few more games to prove he can be productive in the final third, but if he fails to show anything once more then Bruce will perhaps be left with little option but to remove him from the team.
In such a situation, Atsu should be the man he calls upon, as in the current set-up he’d be a better alternative than Matt Ritchie, and has shown glimpses of his quality already this season with two assists in 10 Premier League games, despite only featuring for 452 minutes.
Like Allan Saint-Maximin, who is flourishing under Bruce with 3.6 successful dribbles per game, the Ghana international possesses pace and a directness which suits Newcastle, particuarly on the counter-attack, which will be vital against Manchester City in a couple of weeks.
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Atsu’s time in the north-east has been characterised by inconsistency since he arrived for £6m, so his place on the bench is based on merit, with Almiron offering a lot to the team outside of the attacking final third.
However, there has been recent improvement from the 27-year-old. His dribbling has increased to a rate of 1.3 successful dribbles per game, as has his final ball – with one key pass per game on average.
Such is his progression, he ranks behind only Saint-Maximin in terms of chances created per minute, and other than the players in the top-six clubs he has been one of the top performers in the Premier League, according to @TheOther14.
That shows how he has outperformed the other wingers in the squad, and explains what he would be able to add to the Magpies attack in Almiron’s absence.
With two players capable of beating defenders on both flanks Newcastle would possess an exciting and unpredictable threat, and each would be able to play off Joelinton.
However, Atsu does need to improve his final ball to convince Bruce, and though his crossing has improved slightly with 0.7 made per game, that needs to get better if he is going to provide adequate service to the Brazilian in the middle.