This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Allan Saint-Maximin has burst into life in recent games and has the ability to continue Newcastle’s unbeaten run by gifting them victory.
On the chalkboard
Alhough he remains without a goal, the Frenchman is quickly becoming a key attacking outlet for the Magpies and his exciting performances have excited fans and added a different dimension to the team.
His unpredictability makes him a difficult threat to counter, and that has led him to produce quality chances for himself and others in recent games against West Ham and Bournemouth.
As such, it is surely only matter of time before he breaks his duck and gets on the scoresheet, and he could manage that against an Aston Villa defence which has conceded 20 goals in 12 league games.
However, in Frederic Guilbert he will be coming up a defence-minded full-back, and that could cause him issues, particularly if his compatriot is supported by the likes of John McGinn or Marvelous Nakamba.
Doubling up on the winger is a tactic most opponents will likely use from now on, but that could have the positive effect of opening up space for teammates, and thus Newcastle have numerous methods available to exploit Dean Smith’s team.
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As per WhoScored, Saint-Maximin has been lethal with the ball at his feet this term, averaging 3.6 dribbles per game – the joint-second highest of any player in the Premier League.
His involvement in the Magpies attack has been very evident in the recent matches he has started, and finding him in attacking positions will be central to their chances of success, as Joelinton and Miguel Almiron have failed to make the same level of impact.
Saint-Maximin’s average of 1.4 key passes is higher than both of those players, while he also outperforms his opposite winger in the number of times he has been dispossessed.
He must be sensible against Villa, though, and ensure he doesn’t hold onto the ball for too long. His average of 11.5 passes per game hints at a lack of involvement or possibly a tendency to keep possession longer than necessary, and against Guilbert he could suffer because of that.
The right-back has made 2.4 tackles and interceptions per game, according to WhoScored, and if given the sole responsibility of tracking the 23-year-old he has the potential to make life very difficult for him.
However, if Saint-Maximin plays the way he has in recent games then he will be very difficult to stop, and he may just open his account in a Newcastle shirt, which could hand the away side victory.