Newcastle United’s fantastic season under the tutelage of Eddie Howe has hit something of a snag in recent weeks, but a victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League this afternoon could go a long way toward reinstating stability.

Having blitzed into Champions League contention before the season paused for the 2022 World Cup in December, continuing the fine strides made in the latter phase of last term, the Magpies have indeed faltered over recent weeks, some of the fluidity unhinged and the cutting-edge blunted having secured victory in just one of the past eight league matches.

And with the disappointment of falling at the final hurdle in the Carabao Cup, against Manchester United, followed by a battling away defeat to league champions Manchester City, the affair against the Old Gold represents the perfect opportunity to rekindle the verve that has left the club in sixth place after 24 games.

Wolves are 13th, five points clear of the drop zone, but have exhibited discernible improvement under Julen Lopetegui’s wing, having lost just three of the past nine divisional matches, beating the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

With powerhouse Joelinton suspended, Howe will need to devise a plan to ensure that the robustness of the midfield stands firm, controls the flow of the match and overwhelms the combative nature of the Wanderers centre.

Who could replace Joelinton?

With this in mind, dynamic midfielder Joe Willock must be unleashed at St. James’s Park, with the former Arsenal product performing admirably against the Cityzens last time out, hailed as “hungry” by Ciaran Kelly for his cameo display.

Since signing from the Gunners for £25m in 2021, Willock has amassed 12 goals and two assists from 76 appearances, including a remarkable consecutive scoring run of seven matches to close the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, when the dynamo was completing an initial loan on Tyneside.

As per Sofascore, the 23-year-old has started 20 league matches for the Toon this term, averaging a solid rating of 6.8; with two goals and two assists apiece, Willock has indeed been a steady presence and complimented his output with 1.4 shots and 0.9 key passes per game, creating six big chances and completing an impressive 85% of his passes, also making 1.5 tackles per outing.

Wolves are typically hard to break down, and a progressive presence from the centre could pay dividends for Howe’s outfit, looking to rediscover their clinical touch; as per FBref, the £80k-per-week phenom ranks among the top 10% of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues for shots, the top 10% for progressive carries and the top 1% for touches in the attacking box per 90, illustrating the offensive impact he could make against Wolves.

Journalist Simon Collings lauded the star’s limitless” potential, while Graeme Bailey also once waved lyrical over the “stunning” progress of the dazzling machine, and with Joelinton indeed sidelined at a time when Howe needs someone to stand up, Willock might just be the man.


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