After a disappointing start to the season, Newcastle have bounced back to record back-to-back wins and Dwight Gayle has been a key figure in both victories. He was signed for £12 million, which is a big fee for a Championship club and there was pressure straight away on him to get Newcastle back into the Premier League. It is still early, but he has made a strong start, scoring four goals in his first four matches for Newcastle.
If the pressure of the price tag wasn’t enough, Dwight Gayle has been given the number nine shirt by Rafa Benitez. The number nine is a special shirt at Newcastle and has been worn by the likes of Andy Cole, Les Ferdinand and Alan Shearer, all of whom are legends of the game. Newcastle fans expect their number nine to score goals and it could have been an unwanted side-plot had Gayle suffered from a slow start. However that wasn’t the case and the former Crystal Palace striker is already endearing himself to the Toon Army.
Newcastle didn’t play well against Bristol City and had to dig in to earn the three points. It was a good test for them and they have improved significantly over the past seven days. Dwight Gayle was one of the players to stand out on Saturday and it is clear that he is a cut above the majority of players at this level. His movement for the goal was excellent as he ran in behind the Bristol City defence, while his finish was top drawer. He took the shot on early and made it look easy as he slotted home.
Gayle could have added another in the second half as he showed that he can create chances for himself. He received the ball with his back to goal, managed to turn his defender and smashed a shot from range, but was denied by the post. The 25-year-old looks full of confidence and the move to Newcastle has done wonders for his career. He was stagnating at Palace and looks to be relishing his prominent role in the new era at St James’ Park.
Benitez will be impressed with his number nine’s contribution over the first four games. His goals have been completely different, which highlights his ability to score all kinds of goals. He is known for scoring poacher’s goals, but there is a lot more to his game, as shown by his finish today and his direct free-kick against Reading. Gayle is capable of scoring from anywhere in the final third and that makes him difficult to defend against, especially in the Championship as there is a clear drop in quality.
Over the first four matches, he has struggled at times to lead the line on his own. He doesn’t have the aerial ability to thrive in the role and is better suited to playing with a strike partner. Aleksandar Mitrovic is set to return from suspension on Tuesday and he would complement Gayle perfectly. He is tall, powerful and capable of holding the ball up, which will give Gayle the opportunity to make runs off him.
Although Benitez has been married to 4-2-3-1 throughout his career, he may need to adapt this season. Newcastle are the favourites for the league and as such they can afford to be more forward-thinking than they would be in the Premier League. If he chooses to play both Mitrovic and Gayle, the results could be deadly.
The Championship has been the making of many strikers who are now tearing up the Premier League, with Troy Deeney and Andre Gray being notable examples. The latter is similar in style to Gayle and the Newcastle striker should try to replicate the season Gray had at Burnley last season.
Dwight Gayle has tried to breakthrough in the Premier League with Crystal Palace, but wasn’t given a fair chance, despite his impressive scoring record. If he leads Newcastle back to the top flight, Gayle will get another crack at the Premier League and be in a much better position to succeed. Before that he needs to focus on the Championship and the early signs suggest he is set for an excellent season in the second tier.
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