Islam Slimani hasn’t had the desired impact since joining Newcastle United with the Algerian international managing to play only 16 minutes for the first-team. The 29-year-old has struggled with injuries initially and then was forced to sit out of last weekend’s win over parent club Leicester City. This leaves him with only six matches to prove his quality and earn a long-term stay at St James’ Park.
On deadline day, it was thought that Slimani could potentially be the player to save Newcastle from relegation considering his reputation. He is a striker that has played at the highest level and once cost a reported £29 million in the transfer market. However, the Magpies have managed to climb to safety without him and they are now on course for a top-half finish.
The team’s recent good form won’t help Slimani as Rafa Benitez has previously been reluctant to change with a winning team. Newcastle have won their last three Premier League fixtures with the same unchanged team and it would be a risk for the manager to bring his loan striker in this weekend as it could have a negative impact on the team.
One hope for Slimani is that the current starting striker, Dwight Gayle, has failed to score in any of his last four matches and has missed several good chances during that period. He was a revelation in the Championship last season, but a return of five Premier League goals is a concern for Newcastle. If the club have ambition to push on and establish themselves as a top ten team, they need a striker who can score consistently.
Although Slimani didn’t have the desired impact at Leicester City, he managed to impact matches when he was on the field. The Algerian international was involved in a goal every 117 minutes in the Premier League. Considering his limited game time and his problems adapting to the counter-attacking style of the Foxes, this is very impressive and shows why Benitez was keen to bring him to St James’ Park.
The striker may not have long left to prove himself at Newcastle, but the team’s safe position in the league table will allow him to play without pressure and that is a good thing for him. Slimani can focus on showing what he can do and the freedom should help him to express himself. The final six matches will be a showcase of his ability to the Magpies and the rest of Europe, with a permanent move away from Leicester needed in the summer.
His time on Tyneside has been frustrating to date, but he offered hope with his cameo against Huddersfield Town. Slimani’s presence in the final third indirectly led to the winning goal, as the defenders didn’t deal with a cross properly with their focus being on the Algerian international. He offers a more physical option than Gayle and that is why he was targeted by the club.
With matches against Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea to play before the season ends, there will be opportunities for Slimani to show off his hold-up play and aerial ability. It is up to him to prove that he deserves a permanent move to the club. Time is against him, but Benitez will give him every opportunity to make his case.