The St James’ Park faithful always stood by Joelinton, but out of pity more than anything else. After all, expectations had been high when Newcastle United spent a club record transfer fee of £40m to sign the Brazilian forward from Hoffenheim in the summer window of 2019. It soon became clear that Joelinton wouldn’t live up to his billing.
At least not as an attacker, anyway. Under Eddie Howe, Joelinton has been reinvented as a powerful, energetic box-to-box midfielder. His influence at St James’ Park has never been greater with the Magpies making the most of the Brazilian’s drive to push themselves away from danger at the foot of the Premier League table.
Newcastle are now unbeaten in their last six Premier League outings (five wins and one draw). It would easy to put this upturn in form down to the additions made in the January transfer window, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Indeed, Howe is getting more out of the group of players he inherited, none more so than Joelinton.
“The biggest compliment I can pay him is that he hasn’t made it look difficult and hasn’t required too much information from me,” Howe explained when asked how he has turned Joelinton into such an effective central midfielder so quickly. “He absorbs the information quickly and is able to deliver.
“There’s been no sense of us carrying him defensively, far from it. Naturally, he has an attacking eye, he takes up some really good positions under pressure, in tight areas he’s been very, very good. We need him to score from that position and he was the man who got that first goal for us. Hopefully he can get many more arriving late in the box.”
Howe has favoured a 4-3-3 shape since taking over as Newcastle United manager and this structure allows Joelinton to drive forward and create overloads in the knowledge that he has supporting midfielders around him to carry the load. In the double pivot favoured by Steve Bruce, the Brazilian might have been left exposed.
For someone who has played the majority of his career as a striker, Joelinton possesses surprisingly sharp defensive instincts. He is averaging 2.4 tackles per 90 minutes this season – only two Newcastle players are averaging more – as as well as 1.0 interception per 90 minutes. He is a protective barrier as much as he is a driving force.
Some work is still to be done to secure Newcastle United’s place in the Premier League for next season, but once that objective is achieved focus will turn to further development. The Magpies are now the wealthiest club in world football following last year’s takeover by a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium and will waste no time in spending big to take the next step. They plan on challenging for titles in the next five years.
Everyone at St James’ Park is currently fighting for their future at the club. Saving Newcastle United from the drop might not be enough for some of Howe’s squad, but Joelinton is making a strong case that he should he kept and given a chance to prove himself again next season when he might have higher-calibre teammates around him.
Once seen as an expensive flop, Joelinton now embodies how Howe’s coaching has changed the character of Newcastle United as a team. Not so long ago, the Magpies were a reactive team waiting for their fate as a Championship to be confirmed. Now, though, they are proactive and full of belief. The transformation of Joelinton, the flop come good, reflects this.