Positives to be taken for Joselu in Newcastle United's opening match
Newcastle United and manager Rafa Benitez, unfortunately, began the 2018-19 campaign in the exact same way the previous one started, with a home loss to Tottenham to open the season. The Magpies came extremely close to levelling the match late on, as Salomón Rondón’s shot struck the crossbar in the game’s final minutes. There was plenty of attention for the new striker’s debut, but a summer signing from last year showed tremendous potential for the near future.
Joselu joined the Toon this past August on a three-year deal from Stoke City. He had made a name for himself with Real Madrid’s reserve side but had since been unable to replicate his scoring touch at future stops in his career. In 30 Premier League appearances during 2017-18, the Spanish forward would only net four goals.
But there was more to his overall game, and in many ways, he can be the right striker for Benitez’s system. Using his size and positioning skills, holding up play for team-mates and finding the right passes in the final third can accomplish what Newcastle want when moving towards goal. That was not seen consistently in the past, though his performance against Spurs was certainly promising.
With Newcastle down 0-1 early in the first half, an exquisite cross from Matt Ritchie found Joselu for the club’s first goal of the new season. The striker directed the shot perfectly into the back of the net and displayed confidence in doing so. He would be subbed off for Rondón in the 59th minute, but he made his presence felt.
Joselu completed 24 of his 29 passes in the match and won seven aerial duels in the opposing half. Benitez should be pleased with this type of overall performance, and it helped to put Newcastle in a position to get a point from the fixture.
Ultimately, the club brought in Rondón and Yoshinori Muto to get more out of their attack. 39 goals scored in 38 matches last season simply has to change, and Joselu will likely not be starting every game. However, Benitez must be able to trust him to make an impact when he is involved, and that was shown versus Tottenham.
The new signings at Newcastle United need time to integrate into the team and feel comfortable in their surroundings. That might take some time this month. Joselu may be a starter again Saturday at Cardiff City, and could be poised for another solid outing.