Newcastle United will play Sheffield United in the Premier League at Bramall Lane on Sunday before bringing Burnley to Tyneside the following weekend.

Upcoming games against newly-promoted opposition; a chance – with victory over Brentford last time out – to put together a three-match winning streak to fully restore the feel-good factor on Tyneside after a difficult start to the season that left Eddie Howe’s side nursing three consecutive defeats after a 5-1 win over Aston Villa hinted at such promise.

That’s not to say the Magpies are stuck in the mud. A slight hiccup does not overshadow Howe’s outstanding achievements in pulling the club out of relegation danger and into the hunt for silverware, having confounded expectations with a top-four finish last season despite the pricey PIF club buyout.
AC Milan provided United with their first continental test of the season, with United emerging from the San Siro with a point to begin their group play.

Overall, it was an impressive result, but the attacking performance left little to be desired, with £63 million club-record acquisition Alexander Isak charming to deceive.

How did Alexander Isak fare in his match against AC Milan?

Newcastle, to be honest, got hammered for much of the game in Italy earlier this week. Despite showcasing their quality on the ball and clearly proving to be the more energetic and high-octane club, Milan fired 25 shots on Nick Pope’s goal, compared to Howe’s men’s six.


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Isak led the line for 89 minutes but was not among those who tested Mike Maignan in goal, as a tenacious and solid home defense rendered him “knackered” by the time of his removal, according to presenter Kev Lawson.

As clearly delineated by the 24-year-old’s listed metrics on the night, he endured a forgettable affair and found very little success, effectively marshalled.

While he did drop deep and look to influence the play from the centre of the pitch, he failed to do anything of note with his possession – which is why his pass success rate, which looks impressive on face value, actually doesn’t work in his favour given that he failed to carry the ball into positive openings and didn’t strike on goal himself.


Should Eddie Howe start Alexander Isak?

Isak was impressive last season and tantalised a future of prolific success on Tyneside, and that’s despite suffering an injury-hit campaign.

Isak game vs AC Milan by numbers Statistic (Sofascore)
Match score 6.5
Goals 0
Assists 0
Total shots taken 0
Key passes 1
Pass completion 89% (17/19)
Dribble success rate 20% (1/5)
Duels won 42% (5/12)

Indeed, despite only starting 17 games, the £120k-per-week marvel scored ten goals and provided two assists in the Premier League, and former Willem II coach Adrie Koster praised his “complete” attacking ability.

After being absent for 16 games due to injuries, the 6 foot 3 machine appears to have rediscovered his full form this season, and while he scored twice on the first day of the season, against Unai Emery’s Villa, he has failed to score again, despite starting four times.
Undoubtedly, the goals will come sooner rather than later, but Howe could be prudent to take him out of the starting lineup and give someone else a chance.

The same could be said for £55m summer signing Sandro Tonali, with the Italian midfielder – who was signed from AC Milan – “struggling to impact” the contest against his former side in the Champions League, according to Craig Hope.



A talented playmaker – who ranks among the top 12% of midfielders across Europe’s top five leagues for assists per 90 – he has not quite hit the ground running despite scoring on his debut, and might also receive a relegation to the bench in the short-term.

Who could replace Alexander Isak?

Clearly, if Isak doesn’t start as Newcastle’s focal point up top then there is only one man tailor-made to lead the line and do so with a flourish.


Callum Wilson has been superb since joining Newcastle from Bournemouth for £20m in the summer of 2020, scoring 41 goals and supplying ten assists from just 81 matches since his arrival.

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Last season, he scored no less than 18 goals from just 21 starting appearances in the Premier League, also registering five assists and earning praise for his “clinical edge” by editor Andrew Musgrove.
And after bagging three times in the Premier League already this term – despite only starting the recent win over Brentford, where his penalty proved decisive – the 31-year-old does indeed appear to have that sharpness to propel the Toon back into form.

As per FBref, Wilson – who just recently signed a contract extension with the St. James’ Park side – ranks among the top 6% of forwards across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for goals and the top 9% for assists per 90.


When comparing that with Isak, who ranks among the top 25% of forwards for goals and the bottom 21% for assists per 90, it’s clear to see who offers the more clinical attacking edge.


Of course, the Swede is far more dynamic and boasts a higher ceiling, not just because of his youth but the range of his talents – also ranking among the top 16% for progressive passes, the top 11% for progressive carries and the top 6% for successful take-ons per 90.

However, given that Wilson has yet to make consecutive Premier League starts this season and has an impressive record against both Burnley and the Blades – with eight goals and an assist from 16 games against the two teams combined – Howe may be wise to give him a chance as the main man up front.

Isak is a powerful force, but he has yet to find his groove this season, and with Wilson boasting the Midas touch in attack under Howe’s tutelage, he must be given a starting spot going ahead.

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