Allan Saint-Maximin has been one of Newcastle’s standout performers since arriving on Tyneside over the summer, and he has been a mainstay in Steve Bruce’s side making 23 Premier League starts. The majority of those have come in his favoured left wing role, but on occasions, Bruce has experimented with the 23-year-old, and one of those was against Liverpool on the final day of the campaign.
The Reds cruised to victory, after an early scare via a first minute Dwight Gayle goal, but ran out convincing winners 3-1 in the end. With little to play for the Magpies manager elected to start Saint-Maximin as a striker for the third time this season, lining up alongside Gayle in a 5-3-2 formation. However, the results were dismal and led to the Frenchman being substituted at half time.
In his 45 minutes against the Premier League champions, Saint-Maximin failed to take on a single shot or play a key pass. When up against Virgil Van Dijk, the 23-year-old was met by a brick wall, and the Newcastle forward was not given any space to run into, which may explain why he was so ineffective.
Additionally, he had just nine touches and failed to complete a single dribble, a stark contrast from Saint-Maximin’s usual contribution of 4.7 dribbles per match. Only Lionel Messi, 5.5, and Adama Traore, five, have completed more dribbles per 90 minutes across Europe’s top five leagues this term, highlighting how playing Saint-Maximin as a striker blunts one of his deadliest weapons.
Sunday was the third time this season that Bruce had deployed Saint-Maximin as a centre forward, and he is yet to provide a goal or assist in the role during the trio of appearances. The Magpies boss should now have enough evidence to suggest that Saint-Maximin is not effective when leading the line, and his half time substitution indicated Bruce had realised the experiment was a failure.
When he is given space to exploit the opposition, Saint-Maximin has proven himself to be incredibly influential in wide areas, and only Miguel Almiron, ten, was directly involved in more goals than the Frenchman’s nine this term. Bruce must find an alternative solution to Newcastle’s centre forward dilemma next season as Saint-Maximin has proven he isn’t the answer up top.