April 22, 2024

The Magpies’ head coach should unleash the young sensation from the beginning.
This evening, Newcastle United will switch their attention away from the Premier League as they prepare to face Manchester City in the FA Cup at The Etihad Stadium.

The Magpies have a chance to reach the FA Cup semi-finals, their second trip to Wembley Stadium since the beginning of last year, following the League Cup final in 2023.

Eddie Howe’s side comes into this match against the competition’s defending champions after losing 3-2 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday night.

Despite the close result, Newcastle were comfortably thrashed by the Blues, who were 3-1 up before Jacob Murphy’s stoppage-time stunner, in a game that appeared to pass too many players in black and white.

Joe Willock was one of those who struggled in London, failing to exhibit his full potential in the middle of the park, which is why Howe must brutally remove him from the starting lineup to unleash Lewis Miley from the start.

Joe Willock’s stats against Chelsea

The former Arsenal academy product played center midfield alongside Bruno Guimaraes and Sean Longstaff but failed to impress.

He played the first 80 minutes of the contest, with Newcastle behind 3-1, and struggled in and out of possession throughout.

Willock lost 60% (6/10) of his ground duels in midfield as Chelsea’s players found it too easy to outplay him in physical clashes on the night, with Moises Caicedo, Conor Gallagher, and Enzo Fernandez winning the battle in that area of the pitch.

Meanwhile, the English wizard only made one important pass and did not create any ‘big chances’ for his teammates while in possession, completing 86% of his attempted passes and firing zero shots on goal.

These figures suggest that the 24-year-old dynamo, who had the lowest Sofascore rating (6.5) of the three starting midfielders, did not have a significant impact on or off the ball for Newcastle.

Willock, who completed only one of his five attempted dribbles, did not give significant defensive work to keep Chelsea at bay, nor did he use his talent in possession to create things in the final third to help his team get back into the game.

The midfielder has had a terrible season, missing a total of 30 games due to hamstring and Achilles injuries, limiting him to only six appearances and three starts in the Premier League this season.

As shown in the table above, Willock started the most recent FA Cup encounter at Ewood Park against Blackburn Rovers but was substituted after 61 minutes due to a poor performance in midfield – understandable given his injury difficulties.

His fitness issues and lack of form – presumably due to his time on the sidelines – are a tremendous disappointment, considering the Magpies maestro had a fantastic 2022/23 season.

Joe Willock’s creative quality for Newcastle in 22/23

The Newcastle star was fit for the bulk of last season, appearing in 35 of the club’s 38 Premier League games as they qualified for the Champions League.

Willock struggled in front of goal as a finisher, with only three strikes from an Expected Goals of 7.00, but he demonstrated his talent as a creator for Howe.

The 24-year-old gem generated 12 ‘big opportunities’ for his teammates in 31 Premier League starts, totaling six assists.

He was among the top 10% of Premier League midfielders in terms of assists (0.21) per 90, as well as the top 9% in terms of Expected Assisted Goals (0.21) per 90, indicating that the Toon wiz was one of the greatest players in his position at creating high-quality chances in the final third.

Willock also ranked in the top 6% of his positional peers for progressive carries (3.41) per 90, indicating that he could propel his side across the field in possession.

Unfortunately, his injury issues have hampered his progress this season, and Howe must now mercilessly drop him from the starting lineup to unleash Miley against Manchester City, as the Magpies cannot afford a poor performance from Willock against the likes of Rodri and Kevin de Bruyne.

Lewis Miley’s impressive emergence this season

Lewis Miley: The 'unbelievable' 17-year-old making waves at Newcastle

 

The 17-year-old academy product has emerged as a viable first-team possibility for Newcastle this season, thanks to his outstanding displays in the middle of the field.

He has made 17 Premier League appearances this season, scoring once, assisting three times, and creating three ‘great opportunities’ in 14 starts.

Interestingly, Miley presently ranks among the top 11% of midfielders in the English top division in terms of assists (0.22) per 90 minutes, indicating that he creates goals for his teammates at a rate comparable to Willock last season.

As shown in the table above, the two English midfielders have identical defensive statistics, with both averaging two to three tackles and interceptions per game.

However, Miley has won more than half of his physical duels this season, whereas Willock was a little poor in his skirmishes during the 2022/23 season, implying that he may provide more physicality versus Rodri and De Bruyne in midfield.

U23 scout Antonio Mango described the academy graduate’s transition to first-team football as “remarkable,” and these statistics back that up, as the 6’1 star has done admirably despite his youth and inexperience.

He has provided comparable quality, offensively and defensively, to Willock when the ex-Gunners prodigy was fit and playing consistently last season, which is why Howe must now replace the underperforming 24-year-old with Miley for the match against City.

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