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After a slow start, can Dwight Gayle fire Newcastle United to safety?

Newcastle United’s Dwight Gayle has never been considered as a player worthy of being a leading Premier League striker, but his finish to the 2017/18 season could drastically change opinions, writes Jake Jackman.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Dwight Gayle has had an interesting journey to the top of the game, famously making his name in non-league before working his way up the Football League.

Despite his natural talent and determination to establish himself at the very top, he has been pigeonholed as a player that is too good for the Championship, but not good enough for the Premier League.

During his time at Crystal Palace, he showed flashes of his ability and scored some crucial goals. He became an unpopular figure among Liverpool supporters, often scoring against the Merseyside club. He has four goals against the Reds total – his best record against any individual club.

However, he failed to secure a regular starting berth at Selhurst Park, regularly being used as an impact substitute. On the rare occasions that he did find himself in the first elevn, he was played out of position.

It became a topic of debate for Palace supporters as Gayle was seen as the club’s biggest goal threat. In each of his three seasons with the London outfit he was a regular scorer, but he never managed to fully convince.

His instincts in the final third weren’t enough to impress the number of managers that he worked under and, during the summer of 2016, he was forced to take a step backward in order to progress. Gayle’s career was stagnating in South London and a transfer to recently relegated Newcastle United, for a reported fee of about £10m, was too good to turn down.

The Magpies are a club that have become famous for their goal-scoring number nines. Their supporters are among the most passionate in European football and Rafa Benitez was the manager leading the revival.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Although Gayle had to drop down a division, it was far from a backward step as there was potential to be part of an exciting project at St James’ Park and develop as player under one of the best managers in the world. BBC Sport reported the following quotes from the striker after the transfer was announced:

“He is a great manager and has great experience,”

“There’s expectation, but under the manager here I believe he can help me to perform.

“There’s a great history at Newcastle – I’m looking forward to getting this club back in the Premier League and proving a few people wrong.”

The fee of £12 million was seen as a bargain by Benitez. Newcastle were getting a proven goal-scorer in the Championship with potential to grow with the club. Upon signing for the North East club, it was noted that the famous number nine shirt was vacant and Gayle immediately became a leading candidate to take the jersey.

There was competition from Aleksandar Mitrovic, but the new signing won the battle and that heaped even more pressure on him to hit the ground running.

He certainly did that and if it wasn’t for a second-half of the season hampered by injuries, Gayle could have had a record-breaking season.

The striker scored 23 times in just 32 matches and averaged a goal every 93.3 minutes. His strike rate was considerably better than any other player in the division and he looked a class above. After Newcastle sealed promotion, it was expected that the 27-year-old would now make a name for himself in the top-flight.

That hasn’t been the case and he has once again struggled to secure a regular starting place in the Premier League. He has started 14 times and his performances have been inconsistent. There has been some concern over his mental state, as Benitez alluded to with these comments in August reported by the Shields Gazette:

“He’s fine. Hopefully, he’ll carry on training. If everything’s fine, he will be available. It’s not his hamstring, it’s more the feeling. He’s not comfortable. We don’t want to take any risks and be sure he is fine.”

The Guardian reported that Benitez was ready to sell Gayle towards the end of the summer window, due to these concerns. However, the striker remained at St James’ Park and it has been a slow road back to a starring role.

Goals against Manchester United and Chelsea offered encouragement, but he remained a shadow of the player that stole the headlines in the Championship.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Admittedly, it was a lower standard in the second tier, but there had been a noticeable regression in Gayle’s performances since the end of last season.

He now lacked confidence and didn’t possess the razor sharp edge that allowed him to terrorise defences as Newcastle romped to promotion. There was clearly a problem and it has taken him some time to deal with it.

However, after being given a run in the team, there have been some good signs from Gayle and he could be ready to finish the season strongly. It couldn’t come at a better time for Newcastle with the bottom of the Premier League table is tight. Now, every point is valuable in battling against relegation.

Against Manchester United, he played his part in an important victory. It wasn’t an easy game to lead the line, with Newcastle possession at a minimum, but Gayle worked hard and contributed when he could.

He got the important assist for Matt Ritchie, with a lovely piece of intelligent play in the penalty area, flicking the ball into the path of the winger, and he never stopped running for the team.

He then followed that up with a classic Dwight Gayle performance against Bournemouth as he got back among the scorers. The 27-year-old bagged a brace, but neither goal was anything to write home about.

The striker showed excellent awareness and movement to take up the right positions in the penalty area. Then, when the ball was alive, he was quick to react and grabbed two poachers goals.

Gayle was a constant threat, attempting five shots, and he linked up the play well with a pass success rate of 88%. He completed two key passes during the contest and made one tackle to show his work rate out of possession. It was another step in his battle to prove himself as being good enough to start for a Premier League club.

This provides Gayle with momentum heading into the run-in. Newcastle are in a good position as they battle to survive in the Premier League and they have lost only two of their last 10 league matches. However, five draws have seen them remain in touching distance of the bottom three.

They need to score more goals to earn the victories that they need and an in-form Gayle could be the answer. If he manages to fire the Magpies to safety, he will finally have proven himself as a Premier League striker.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Everton

Sam Allardyce’s tactical masterstroke responsible for Everton success

The Toffees boss has been heavily criticised since his arrival at the club.

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Photo: Getty Images

Under-fire Everton manager Sam Allardyce engineered a tactical masterstroke during his side’s 1-0 Monday night win over Newcastle United.

By switching the positions of Everton’s two wingers, Allardyce directly contributed to the winning goal and proved his worth to the Goodison Park doubters.

For much of the first half, Yannick Bolasie and Theo Walcott were frustratingly ineffective when stationed on the left and right wings respectively.

Bolasie constantly declined to whip in crosses when given time, instead opting to idle on the ball and lose possession through poorly-executed bits of skill. When the Congolese international decided to put in service to the box, it regularly failed to meet an Everton shirt.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

On the opposite wing, Walcott was largely anonymous and had little impact on proceedings, suffering from a lack of service.

However, Yet Allardyce’s swap proved instantly effective just minutes into the second half. Bolasie collected the ball on the right wing, just inside the Newcastle half, and drove purposefully down the line with his favoured right foot.

The former Crystal Palace man then lofted in a looping, inviting ball to the back post, where now left winger Theo Walcott was waiting in a perfect position.

After a kind ricochet, the ball fell kindly to the Englishman, who lashed home an emphatic strike to give Everton the lead.

(during the Premier League match between Everton and Newcastle United at Goodison Park on April 23, 2018 in Liverpool, England.

It was a perfect reward for the tactical nous of the Everton manager, with his intelligent switch directly resulting in the crucial strike for the Toffees.

The success of the switch provided a much-needed boost for Allardyce, who had endured an uncomfortable week. After a much-publicised club survey asked supporters to rate the manager on a scale of 1-10, the experienced manager had faced embarrassing questions over his future.

There was no better response than an inspired tactical shift that handed Everton all three points,  proving his worth to the Goodison Park faithful.

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English Premier League

Rolando Aarons looks set for second relegation in a row

The Newcastle United winger joined Italian side Hellas Verona on loan in January.

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Despite losing to Everton in the Premier League last night Newcastle United should be safe in the Premier League this season. It has been a tough campaign back in the top-flight but Rafa Benitez has worked wonders with his squad and the Toon Army now look set for another season in the Premier League.

But whilst Newcastle’s current players are safe from relegation, one of their more talented players currently out on loan looks set to suffer a drop.

Rolando Aarons’ career has been blighted by injury problems. When he burst onto the scene at Newcastle in 2014 it seemed as though the club had a future star on their hands. A performance against Crystal Palace that August had Newcastle fans extremely excited about the future for the Jamaican-born talent.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

However, problems soon beset the youngster. After suffering a hamstring problem on international duty he spent six weeks on the sidelines. Hamstring trouble has since gone on to plague the wide man as well as a foot problem and anterior cruciate ligament injury. Since that breakthrough season in 2014-15 Aarons has only managed to play 21 times for the club in the following three campaigns.

This term he has been, for the most part, fit, but not in the plans of Benitez. Therefore, in January, he took the bold move of heading to Italy on loan. The 22-year-old joined Hellas Verona on loan until the end of the season in a bid for regular first-team football.

He joined former Newcastle coach Fabio Pecchia, now the boss at Verona, in the hope of playing regularly and finding his best form.

But, for the second season in a row, it seems Aarons will suffer relegation from the top-tier. Verona are currently 19th in the table, six points away from local rivals Chievo and Crotone and potential safety.

(Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images)

To stay up, Verona need results in their final four games of the season. Whilst the home games against fellow relegation fighters SPAL and Udinese might give them hope, fixtures away to Milan and Juventus have seen many pundits in Italy forecasting their doom.

Aarons has played eight times for Verona since arriving at the club but has had limited impact. No goals and no assists in his 137 minutes of Italian football so far.

It seems that Aarons still has a long way to go until he can recapture his best form. The move to Verona has not been a success, but it was at least a brave switch from the young winger.

This summer he will be working hard to maintain his fitness and attempt to become a regular at Newcastle next season.

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England National Team

“No surprise”: Twitter reacts to rumours of Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey’s England return

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Photo: Getty Images.

When news broke that Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey could be in line for an England recall, fans around the country reacted in a variety of ways, both of joy and dread, that the former Liverpool man could be on the plane to Russia.

The Times say that his form, combined with fitness concerns over Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana, have put him in the frame, and England boss Gareth Southgate is set watch as his Magpies team face Everton on Monday.

The 26-year-old has been key to Rafa Benitez’s side this season as they have re-established themselves back in the top flight of English football.

(Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Shelvey has already got six England caps to his name, the most recent coming in November 2015 against France, and he could now earn a return two and a half years later.

His sparkling form has caught the eye as all three goals he has been involved with this season (one goal and two assists) have come in his last four appearances.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to the news…

Many believed it was about time…

Plenty made comparisons to the alternatives, with two in particular coming up a few times…

He’s made some eat their words…

Yet not all agreed…

After three years in the international wilderness, Jonjo Shelvey will need to maintain his current form if he is to enter into the fight to earn himself a ticket on the plane to Russia as a surprise inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s squad to face Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in World Cup Group G.

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