CRAIG HOPE: Alexander Isak proves Newcastle right against Wolves
CRAIG HOPE: Alexander Isak was starting to feel more miss than hit after a tough start at Newcastle… but his coming-of-age display against Wolves suggests that Eddie Howe’s side may have got the £60m signing right
- Alexander Isak has had a tough time since completing his move to Newcastle
- The record £60m signing has struggled with injuries and scored just four goals
- His display against Wolves suggests they may have got the signing right though
Newcastle United can afford most things. What they cannot afford, with their limitless ambition bound by financial spending rules, is to get it wrong when it comes to club-record signings. At £60million, Alexander Isak was beginning to feel more miss than hit.
At the time of the deal, in August, sources in Spain said that Newcastle had overpaid for the Sweden striker. They pointed to his return of just six league goals for Real Sociedad during the previous season. In the seven months since, those doubts had taken on an air of surety – had Newcastle made a mistake?
There were mitigating factors, of course. A torn thigh muscle when training with Sweden in September kept him out until January. There was then a concussion and another period of absence which messed with his head in every sense.
But amid all of this was a seven-match scoreless run, including back-to-back starts. Yes, there had been flashes of a very good player, but a great player? A £60m Newcastle No.9? No.
At least, that was, until Sunday. Starting for the first time in a month against Wolves, Isak wore the weight of the shirt and his price tag, carrying a side who had felt the gravitational pull of reality in recent weeks. He lifted his colleagues and the crowd, an electrifying presence for a team in need of charge.
Alexander Isak has had a difficult start to life at Newcastle since completing his record move
Isak had a coming-of-age afternoon against Wolves in which he scored Newcastle’s opener in a 2-1 victory which could be an important result to the Magpies’ hopes of a top-four finish
Isak may have the gait of a long-distance runner, but Wolves’ defenders would have felt like Usain Bolt was coming for them as he pressed at pace from the front.
After one such charge and block in the first half, he threw his arms in the air and the home fans responded by dialling up the volume. It takes a certain confidence to interact with a stadium like that, and until this point Isak had rarely exuded such belief. Now, there was a gladiatorial feel about him.
Ultimately, though, such warriors are judged by their killer instinct, and Isak’s headed opener was a merciless strike through the heart of opponents who had survived comfortably for 26 minutes.
For while Newcastle’s approach play has continued to warm supporters encouraged by the building blocks of a competent side, it is a cold-blooded finisher they have missed since the turn of the year. That is the difference club-record signings are supposed to make.
Wolves equalised just two minutes after a spent Isak departed midway through the second half, and it was Miguel Almiron who emerged as the home match-winner.
There was no doubt Isak set the tone for Newcastle’s best performance of 2023 so far
Eddie Howe was keen to remind people that Isak is still not ready to play 90 minutes, but the Swedish striker’s performance suggests that the Magpies may have got the £60m signing right
But there was no doubt as to the player who set the tone for Newcastle’s best performance of 2023. It was never meant to take this long, but here was a £60m centre-forward.
Eddie Howe reminded us afterwards that Isak is not ready to play 90 minutes for his side – given the demands he places on players – but in 68 minutes there was finally substantive evidence as to why he and sporting director Dan Ashworth were convinced the 23-year-old is a player who can help take the club to the very top.
This felt, strangely, like a debut for Isak, a coming-of-age afternoon to draw a line under the stresses and scepticism of the previous seven months. Newcastle may have just got this one right.
isak could play a huge part in the final months if Newcastle are to obtain a top-four finish
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