What’s reasonable to expect from Miguel Almiron in his first half season at Newcastle United?
Remember: I wrote reasonable, not realistic. Newcastle smashing its 14-year transfer record to sign the Paraguayan will have supporters thinking big.
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First things first, Almiron’s first meaningful minutes for Newcastle will be his first serious match action since the MLS Cup Final on Dec. 9. That means there will be some rust on the wiry playmaker who produced 13 goals and 13 assists for the Five Stripes in 2018.
Next: It’s likely that Rafa Benitez views Almiron as that playmaking No. 10 he’s needed, though there’s no guarantee his closest comparison on the Magpies — Ayoze Perez — won’t be a bit more suited to the job while Almiron gets used to the league.
Speaking of which, Perez is a terrific base line for which to judge Almiron. That won’t happen since Perez was a plucked gem from Tenerife while Almiron cost a club record, but follow me here.
The 25-year-old Perez is only a half-year older than Almiron, but arrived Tyneside at the age of 21. Perez also has Almiron by a half-inch.
Perez arrived at Newcastle having torn apart a lesser league, La Liga2, to the tune of 16 goals and 7 assists. He did not come on like a flash, either, with his first six appearances off the bench.
He scored goals in his next three en route to five by New Year’s Day and seven on the Premier League season, where he was deployed by Alan Pardew as an undersized center striker in two-thirds of his matches.
That Newcastle team, as hard as this is to believe, was nearly as offensively wretched as this season’s iteration. Perez was the second-leading goal scorer, behind Papiss Cisse and ahead of a wayward crowd of Moussa Sissoko and Jack Colback (Yes, they were relegated).
Almiron is much more seasoned than Perez, and the Paraguayan’s lesser league of MLS is a lot more physical than La Liga2. Almiron has also been the focal point of a team’s creative center, and will not be thrown off by the responsibility and expectations at a new club. Remember, he cost an MLS expansion team about $8 million.
Benitez may cater to Almiron in a free-ranging role to blood him on the Premier League, ousting Christian Atsu from the lineup instead of Perez at the No. 10.
What’s reasonable, like really reasonable? We’d say a goal — perhaps two given set piece chances — to go with 3-4 assists over his final 14 matches would qualify as a statistical success, but just looking the part and encouraging his owner to back Benitez with similar talent over the summer will be almost as important.
No pressure, kid.