MIGUEL ALMIRON scaled e1667316769617

If Joelinton was rapidly reborn under Eddie Howe, Miguel Almiron’s renewal has been subtler, more slow-burn.

But after a first pre-season together featuring specifically tailored drills and analysis sessions to teach him where to run and how to finish, and a surge in self-belief, Almiron has now evolved to such an extent that he has forced Newcastle United to actively reassess their transfer plans.

A new contract may soon be in the offing, too.

After all, he should pick up the Premier League’s October awards for both goal of the month — Almiron has provided three contenders — and player of the month. The Paraguayan’s six goals in six games for the month ensured he kept pace with Erling Haaland of Manchester City; no Premier League player scored more in October than those two.

With seven Newcastle goals already this season, Almiron is not only six clear of Jack Grealish, his ridiculer-in-chief, but is joint-fifth on the list of Premier League goalscorers. Across Europe’s top five domestic leagues — also including La Liga in Spain, Germany’s Bundesliga, Serie A in Italy and the French Ligue 1 — the only South American to find the back of the net more frequently than him is Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian superstar Neymar with 10.

Having spent the summer looking to sign a new right-sided forward, Howe now describes Almiron as “very, very important” to his team. But just how has the 28-year-old recast himself from an often exasperating winger who rarely scored into the Premier League’s in-form attacker?


Almiron has always been a fan favourite at St James’ Park. How could supporters fail to warm to a player whose endless endeavour is matched only by the size of his trademark smile?

But throughout his almost-four years on Tyneside, Almiron’s lack of end product had proven frustrating. His off-the-ball work and selflessness are important traits, but it long appeared as if Almiron lacked vital quality in the final third.

Put bluntly, he simply did not score goals.

Almiron failed to score in his first 26 appearances for Newcastle after joining from Atlanta United of MLS in January 2019.

Throughout his first 117 Premier League games, across 8,532 minutes, he contributed just 10 goals from an expected goals (xG) return of 15.63. That represents one goal every 853 minutes, or almost every 10 of his 98 starts.

In 2021-22, Almiron scored only once and, before this season, he had never managed more than four league goals during an English campaign.

Across October, Almiron increased his career Premier League goal tally by two-thirds. His six goals in six starts over those 31 days, from an xG of just 2.67, came in only 513 minutes of game time.

In 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2021-22, Almiron significantly underperformed his xG. This season, he is massively exceeding his xG number of 4.3.

Almiron’s attacking stats by season

Metrics 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23

Appearances (sub)

9 (1)

35 (1)

28 (6)

19 (11)

13 (0)

Minutes played

759

3,021

2,429

1,716

1,085

Goals

0

4

4

1

7

Goals per 90

0

0.12

0.15

0.05

0.58

Expected goals

1.5

6.7

3.2

2.5

4.3

xG p90

0.18

0.20

0.12

0.13

0.36

Shots p90

2.3

1.7

1.2

1.7

2.8

Shots on target p90

1.0

0.5

0.5

0.4

0.9

Touches in opp box p90

3.1

2.4

1.5

2.1

4.9

That is partly down to a healthy competitive edge that has emerged between Almiron and Callum Wilson (six goals) in the race to be Newcastle’s top scorer. No other player in Howe’s squad has scored more than twice. Almiron’s purple patch has proven timely, with Allan Saint-Maximin and Alexander Isak playing a combined 16 minutes throughout October because of injuries.

While Howe came to the club last November adamant he could get more from Almiron, someone he admired from afar as Bournemouth manager due to his pace and off-the-ball work, even he did not expect this dramatic change.

Last season, Almiron found himself behind Ryan Fraser and Saint-Maximin in the battle to start in Howe’s preferred front three. But, with Fraser now considered a left-sided option, the head coach told Almiron during pre-season that he had an opportunity to claim a starting berth.

Yet Howe was also pushing Newcastle to sign a new right-sided forward. He did not really consider selling Almiron — and Newcastle did not receive any firm offers for him — but did envisage having a fresh alternative available.

Still, Almiron’s pressing capacity is vast and, given Howe wanted Newcastle to shift to more of a front-foot style, he felt the now 47-cap Paraguay international was ideally suited to that approach and challenged the forward to offer more in possession to secure his place.

Crucially, Howe also offered Almiron the support and advice he needed to improve. Howe told him that, given his pace and endurance and the quality of his team-mates, he should find himself in better goalscoring positions more often.

What Howe recognised was that, unlike Saint-Maximin, who is instinctive, Almiron flourishes when given a specific role.

In his Atlanta days, coach Tata Martino built an MLS title-winning team around his pace; at Newcastle, Rafa Benitez also gave Almiron a defined job — to stretch defences and create space.

Throughout Steve Bruce’s two-year tenure as Benitez’s successor, Almiron often appeared uncertain about what his responsibilities were. His position was regularly changed — he was even deployed as a midfielder — and he was asked to carry the ball from deep, to get Newcastle upfield, given they played with a low block.

Having watched Almiron closely, Howe and his coaching staff determined they needed to address the fundamentals of attacking play with him. In particular, they have diligently shown Almiron what is expected from him when Newcastle have possession; where to be, when to run and to be constantly alert.

As well as asking Almiron to watch videos of Europe’s best wide forwards, so he could mirror their runs into goalscoring positions, Newcastle’s coaches have pored over clips of the player himself, highlighting for him where he should be, particularly when creative team-mates Bruno Guimaraes and Kieran Trippier have possession.

Having studied the 22 goals Almiron scored in 70 MLS appearances, Howe was convinced the forward could provide a greater end product if he was taking up the correct positions, primarily because he has the fitness to repeatedly stretch defences. Six goals during pre-season followed, before his delayed competitive glut of them in October.

Too often previously, Almiron would pass infield, then remain on the touchline. The coaching staff have performed repeated drills with him, urging him to give the ball inside to Guimaraes or outside to Trippier, before sprinting into the right-hand side of the opponents’ penalty area.

Of Almiron’s seven goals so far this season, the simplest one gave Howe the greatest satisfaction.

At Fulham on October 1, Jacob Murphy plays Joe Willock in down the left channel and Almiron can be seen anticipating through the middle.

Almiron tap in vs Fulham Part 1

Rather than remaining stationary, Almiron surges into the area and taps in Willock’s cross from inside the six-yard box.

“His technical delivery of what we’re asking him to do has definitely gone up a level,” Howe said.

Almiron tap in vs Fulham Part 2 1

This season, Newcastle have successfully passed to Almiron in the box on 42 occasions, according to StatsBomb data. His 4.9 touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes is also significantly higher than in previous seasons — it was just 2.1 per 90 in 2021-22, for example.

Interestingly, the ratio of his touches that occur in the attacking third has increased to 59 per cent, from around 40 per cent previously. Only 10 per cent of his touches take place inside his own defensive third now, significantly lower than previous years, which shows Almiron is receiving possession higher up the pitch, rather than being asked to carry it from deep as he was under Bruce.

Below is Almiron’s touch map for October, showing the majority of his touches came in the opposition half.

Miguel Almirons October touch map

Since Saint-Maximin’s injury against Wolves in late August, Newcastle have also focused a greater volume of their attacks down Almiron’s right side. Against Aston Villa on Saturday, for example, 41.27 per cent of them came down that flank.

Newcastles attacks against Villa

According to Opta, Almiron is receiving 6.5 progressive passes per 90 from his team-mates — defined as where the ball advances at least 10 yards towards the opponents’ goal or into the box. That is more than double last season’s 2.8, highlighting how he is benefitting from Howe’s more offensive approach.

A significant proportion of those passes are coming from Trippier and Guimaraes. Insiders insist that Trippier loves playing with Almiron, as the pair create space for one another and the winger puts a shift in to cover him defensively.

In the example below against Villa, Almiron is advancing through the middle. Trippier, on the right, sends a through ball to release him, and he gets a shot away.

Trippier pass to Almiron against Aston Villa to set up a shot

It is Guimaraes’ ability to play inch-perfect passes to Almiron that has aided the latter’s improvement the most, however. All three of the Brazilian’s assists since moving from Lyon in France last January have been for Almiron.

The pair are friends, regularly socialising with Joelinton, another South American, and on the pitch they have developed a clear understanding.

Guimaraes’ dinked passes to find Almiron in the box are practically becoming a weekly feature. Whenever Guimaraes picks up the ball inside the opposition half now, Almiron is primed.

Here against Fulham, during the build-up to his wondergoal, Almiron is seen pointing into the box when Guimaraes has the ball.

Almiron volley vs Fulham Part 1

The Brazilian does not play the pass, though, and he moves back out to the wing. Almiron eventually gets the ball there, before playing it inside to Guimaraes.

Almiron volley vs Fulham Part 2

Immediately, Almiron sprints into the right-hand side of the area, allowing Guimaraes to play an exquisite chipped pass…

Almiron volley vs Fulham Part 3

…which Almiron buries with a spectacular left-footed volley. It’s a superb goal, but it was his movement that most pleased Howe.

Almiron volley vs Fulham Part 4

Almiron’s hard work on the training ground during pre-season had been evident far earlier. On the opening weekend of the season, against Nottingham Forest, he and Guimaraes had combined in similar fashion.

Below, Almiron plays a pass inside to the 24-year-old Brazilian, before advancing into the box.

Almiron Guimaraes combine against Forest Part 1

Guimaraes plays a low pass back to him, and Almiron sees his shot from a tight angle saved.

Almiron Guimaraes combine against Forest Part 2

Another area of Almiron’s decision-making in the final third the Newcastle coaches have worked on is his shooting technique.

Howe has encouraged him to aim higher in the net, rather than driving balls along the ground, though he has scored with both methods recently.

As his confidence has visibly grown, Almiron has been shooting far more regularly — he is averaging 2.8 attempts and 0.9 shots on target per 90 this season, his best rates for both in the Premier League since joining Newcastle — and he is hitting them early, too.

Below is his goal against Villa, with Wilson underhitting a pass to Almiron, forcing him inside.

Almiron goal vs Villa Part 1

Having set himself, he shoots early, whipping a delicious left-footed shot into the top left corner.

Almiron goal vs Villa Part 2

How long Almiron can sustain this form remains to be seen.

Clearly, he is unlikely to continue scoring at a rate of a goal per game, but Newcastle’s coaching staff believe he can keep contributing regularly.

Importantly, his off-the-ball work has not suffered.

Almiron remains committed to harrying the opposition — and even forced a goal by leading a one-man press against Brentford on October 8.

Here, none of Newcastle’s forwards are pressing as a backpass is played to David Raya, who is out of frame in the first screengrab of the sequence.

Almiron goal from no pressing to a one man press forcing a mistake Part 1

Raya passes short to Ethan Pinnock. The defender is facing away from Almiron, who sprints towards him at that moment.

Almiron goal from no pressing to a one man press forcing a mistake Part 2

Only spotting the approaching Almiron late, Pinnock underhits a blind return ball to Raya, allowing the Newcastle man to skip in and score.

Almiron goal from no pressing to a one man press forcing a mistake Part 3

Just as Howe is not growing complacent with Newcastle’s lofty league position, he is not resting on Almiron’s improved form. There remain other facets of his game the head coach hopes to develop, most particularly when it comes to setting up his team-mates.

Almiron has yet to provide an assist this season. In fact, it is now 76 Premier League appearances, stretching back to the opening match of 2020-21 away to West Ham United, since his last one.

Admittedly, his expected assists (xA) per 90 of 0.09 so far in 2022-23, according to Opta, is the joint-highest since he joined and his completed passes into the box are up to 1.4 per 90 (a huge improvement on the 0.3 of last season), so he is attempting to find his team-mates more frequently.

Regardless, Almiron is simply undroppable right now — and even Saint-Maximin will not displace him when he is fit to start games again.

Although Newcastle are still keen to sign a wide forward, they are no longer believed to be focusing solely on a right-sided addition, because Almiron has now secured that position.

Indeed, he is fast making himself part of Newcastle’s exciting-looking future — something few expected during the summer.



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