Newcastle United made a three-place leap following their 2-0 win over Fulham to finish 12th for the 2020/21 season, a position higher than last campaign.
It’s been a tepid season for the most part and mostly underwhelming, but there have been the occasional glimmers of brilliance along the way.
But who were the names to get Newcastle there? Who truly pulled their weight? We can now find out. The stats don’t lie.
So, we now look at the top five Newcastle players this season, via Whoscored. The only rule to the list is they must have played 10 games or more for the side this season.
Jonjo Shelvey – rating 6.80
Shelvey’s name as fifth on the list will surprise some. It could be that his importance flies under the radar somewhat by having a more secluded style of play. The midfielder has been one of the most heavily criticised players this season, often marked out for his lackadaisical nature and haphazardness when on the ball. (Toothless, even)
It speaks of regression. Cst your mind back to Shelvey in the second half of the 2017/18 season when he was tipped for an England spot owing to his immense ability to pick out players from the halfway line and genuine threat. But while he’s still capable of this, Shelvey has lacked guile and presence in midfield to offer any sort of well-rounded campaign.
He has only scored once in the league compared to his six goals last campaign and made just three assists. But he is Newcastle’s fifth-best player according to stats. One of his greatest assets is that he makes 1.3 key passes per-90 – but what props him up is likely the fact he makes 30.8 successful long balls in the same time. He pips Karl Darlow to this spot by 0.01.
Callum Wilson – rating 6.84
Wilson spent a significant part of this season on the sidelines through injury, playing 28 times in total. And yet he still has been able to score 12 goals and give five assists. It’s not lost just how important his goal threat has been for Newcastle. He’s the player they have been in dire need of ever since Demba Ba departed to Chelsea (Shelvey was Newcastle’s top scorer last season, for example). Along with the goals and assists, the striker has earned four Man of the Match awards. No doubt next campaign, if he is able to keep fit, he’ll be a huge part of Newcastle’s attempt to make a climb up the table.
Martin Dubravka – rating 6.85
Dubravka missed a majority of the season through injury – he made just 13 appearances in total – but he slotted in again brilliantly and almost immediately showed why he’s one of Newcastle’s biggest presences at the back.
For my money, he is the Premier League’s best catcher of the ball: you see him pluck a soaring, violently struck ball from the sky with ease and into his arms as if he was picking at a ripe apple from a tree. Statistically speaking, he is the fourth highest-rated goalkeeper in the Premier League (although admittedly his lack of appearances makes this comparison slightly unfair). He makes the seventh most saves in the league per-90 (3.4) – and some of those stops this season have been crucial in earning points for the Magpies.
Allan Saint-Maximin – rating 7.12
The enigmatic, blustering player whose social media wit rivals that of any other in the Premier League – but of course, it’s his movement on the ball which truly pins him as a standout player. He has the most successful dribbles of that of any top player in Europe’s top five leagues bar Rayan Cherki, making 5.5 per-90 mins. His total dribbles max at 8.3, still less than prodigy Cherki, but still more than Lionel Messi, Adame Traore, and Kylian Mbappe, who sit fourth, fifth, sixth, respectively – (Jeremie Boga in third spot).
Saint-Maximin is representative of all that can be with great Newcastle – the entertainment, the attacking zeal, and rise-of-your-seats moments; and you can be forgiven for believing a different tactical approach could be the true unlocking of him next campaign. Criticism of him is that his final pass and shot is still raw, far more inept in front of goal than he is at dizzying opposition – and yet we are starting to see glimmers of such guile; the pass cutting through Sheffield United for Joe Willock’s goal was exceptional and hopefully a sign of a more rounded potential.
Joseph Willock – rating 7.13
The youngster has been hugely pivotal in Newcastle’s season. In fact, his goals have made Newcastle 14 points better off. Without him, they would have finished just seven points off the dropzone (34) and Newcastle’s survival hopes would have gone to the wire. Among other stats, he makes a neat 0.7 key passes per-90 – but of course, seven goals in seven games, scoring in each one consecutively, isn’t too bad, either. Newcastle must now show a willingness to get the midfielder signed on either a permanent or further loan deal.
Jacque Talbot is on Twitter