Newcastle and Howe must start getting a tune out of Alexander Isak
There is frustration on Tyneside, but only because expectation has escalated. Understandable given the money spent and the fine work Eddie Howe has done since January.
But now Newcastle are faced with new challenges as they must learn to break down opponents set up to contain while finding a way to get the best out of £60million Alexander Isak. The answer to the latter could very well provide the solution to the former.
The record books state club-record Isak has scored two in three since arriving from Real Sociedad, but all the talk at St James’ Park on Saturday – and two weeks before after a home stalemate with Crystal Palace – was isolated . figure who is not yet in harmony with his teammates.
Alexander Isak has cut an increasingly isolated figure for Newcastle in his performances so far
There is a sense that his qualities, at least for now, will be better suited to play away from home, as was seen on his Liverpool debut when he twice stole clears from the back line before finishing superbly. A marginal offside denied him the second of those goals.
Isak was bought to make the difference in games like this against Bournemouth, whose low blocking and rigid structure were a mark of respect but also a new headache for Howe.
And while his new Swedish striker earned a point with a well-taken penalty, it was the only occasion where he had space in the box. No wonder he grabbed the ball after a VAR check spotted Jefferson Lerma’s handball. Howe acknowledges the need to work with the young forward.
Eddie Howe must find a way to get a tune out of his new Swedish forward to achieve success
“He’s learning, and not only how the team plays, but also how his teammates play,” said the head coach, whose team had 73 percent possession and 20 shots.
Again, there were flashes from him, but I don’t think as a team we did well enough to get him into scoring positions. We didn’t give him the ball early enough. He was a bit isolated. But let’s look at the positive – he took his punishment brilliantly and he worked hard for the team. He has certainly contributed, but we know we can involve him a lot more than that.’
Kieran Trippier echoed those sentiments. “It’s more about developing as a team and finding your strengths,” said the captain. ‘Everyone has seen what he is about. I have played against him in La Liga. He plays from the shoulder, he is fast, he is good in the air. We have an all-round striker at such a young age.’
Isak is 22 years old and a Swedish journalist in attendance believes Newcastle have paid a high premium for potential, flagging inconsistency as a concern in his homeland.
A Swedish journalist who was present at the match believes Newcastle have paid a high price for potential – marking Isak’s inconsistency as a concern
Former Newcastle great Malcolm Macdonald, meanwhile, said during Saturday’s game that Isak will benefit from the return of Callum Wilson, a player more suited to the demands of a central forward role. Howe hinted as much afterwards. “He’s a versatile player and we obviously moved him short to the left when Chris Wood came on,” he said. ‘He can also play a slightly deeper role, so there is flexibility with him.’
But how Newcastle need Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin back in their squad. Although the owners have invested more than £200m since January, they have not addressed one of their biggest needs – wingers.
Howe inherited a wreck of a defense and has built from the back. His side have only lost once this season and that came in the 98th minute at Anfield. The flip side is that they haven’t won since the opening day against Nottingham Forest. Minus Saint-Maximin, they lack a dribbler capable of disrupting tough opposition.
But credit also to Bournemouth and caretaker Gary O’Neil, whose side took the lead through Philip Billing and were good value for a point, which makes it five from three games under his charge. An impending takeover has complicated his situation, but sticking with O’Neil is their best bet on this evidence.
They are level on points with Newcastle, which is why the frustration hangs over St James’.
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Pope 6.5; Trippier 6.5, Schar 6, Burn 6.5, Targett 6.5; Willock 6.5, Guimaraes 6.5 (Longstaff 72min, 6), Joelinton 6.5; Almiron 6.5 Wood 89), Isak 6, Fraser 6 (Murphy 71, 6). Scorer: Isak 67 (pen).
Reserved: Joelinton, Targett
Manager: Eddie Howe 6.5
Bournemouth (4-2-3-1): Netto 7; Smith 6, Mepham 6.5, Senesi 6.5, Zemura 6.5; Cook 7, Lerma 6; Tavernier 6.5, Anthony 80), Billing 7 (Stephens 90), CHRISTIE 7.5 (Stacey 87); Solanke 6.5 (Moore 90).
Goal scorer: Billing 62.
Reserved: Tavernier, Christie.
Manager: Gary O’Neil 7.
Referee: Craig Pawson 7. Attendance: 52,238.