Newcastle United secured a vital come-from-behind victory over Southampton on Sunday, but that 2-1 triumph came at a cost for Magpies boss Steve Bruce.
The Geordie admitted as much after the game. He told BBC Sport that he would ‘kick himself’ if the injury suffered by star winger Allan Saint-Maximin during the game trend out to be a serious one.
Whatever the severity of the problem – which saw the Frenchman exit St James’ Park on crutches – it appears unlikely that Saint-Maximin will make it for Saturday’s trip to Burnley.
That would then but a whole heap of responsibility on Newcastle winger Christian Atsu, who would appear to be the most obvious candidate to come in and replace the former Nice star.
However, the Ghana international has become more used to life on the substitute’s bench of late. Indeed, he’s failed to start a game since September, enjoying just 59 minutes of action over the past 2+ months [Source: Transfermarkt].
The statistics don’t particularly indicate that the 27-year-old would be able to make the step up and replicate the kind of impact Saint-Maximin has made of late.
As per WhoScored.com, he’s averaging only 0.4 shots, 0.8 key passes and one successful dribble per game this season. His average WhoScored rating, as well, is just 6.41.
Yet he’s grabbed three assists this campaign. So he can produce, but perhaps not with the consistency of Saint-Maximin. He’s going to get his chance now, though, unless Bruce tinkers with his tactics.
Perhaps the Magpies boss will go with Joelinton out wide and Andy Carroll through the middle. The Brazilian operated in that sort of role at Hoffenheim, so that could happen.
However, the likeliest scenario is that Atsu will be handed a big role in the Frenchman’s absence.