by Rob Clothier – 30th April 2020

I think it’s fair to say that when Allan Saint-Maximin arrived on Tyneside from OGC Nice at the start of August 2019, not many of us knew an awful lot about the young Frenchman.  Here’s my thoughts on his first season (so far) at Newcastle United.

From the outset, it was obvious that Allan was going to be a breath of fresh air.  Not just in the way he plays, but the way that he conducts himself off the pitch.  His down to earth attitude is something that will endear him to many a Toon fan.  He is grounded and has an excellent work ethic.  In an interview that he recorded for TV he said that this comes from his upbringing and he will never let go of these life lessons.

He hasn’t let fame and fortune go to his head.  We have seen him actively getting involved with the Newcastle Foodbank, just another sign that he is a genuine lad and wants to make a difference in his community.

Another side to him which I love is his activity on social media.  Under a strict regime at Newcastle United for so long now we have seen limited interaction from players with fans online.  The posts which Allan has put out since being here have given a fascinating insight into his personal life away from the football pitch.  Those who use social media will understand how much it means to the fans when a player acknowledges something you have written or commented about them.

Allan is often seen retweeting, liking and commenting on posts that fans have made about him.  This is something which I would love to see happen more often under new owners, from those players at the club that wish to engage in such exchanges with fans and media.  It is an easy win for bringing the players and fans together (when done correctly and constructively).

Who could have missed his hilarious, but very honest, “I don’t give a fuck” interview with BBC Newcastle!?  Moments like this just make me love him so much more…

From my seat in the Gallowgate end, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Allan this season at St.James’ Park.  The difference he makes to our starting eleven is huge.  When Allan is in the team, I reckon the opposition must dread it.  He is a box full of tricks, an unknown quantity, he can make things happen out of nothing.

The opposition full back who has the unfortunate task of facing up against him will not be able to get forward up the pitch as much, for the fear of ASM’s pace getting in behind on the counter attack.  When you look at it this way, Allan’s presence in the team can potentially take pressure off our defence, because the opposition cannot risk pushing players forward as much.  The same could be said for Miggy Almiron.  With both lads in the side, you would expect to see opposition teams giving us more respect by not playing so high up, for fear of being caught out too far up the pitch if the play is turned over.

Geordies love a player with a bit of flair and skill, something which Allan has in abundance.  Players from the recent past that come to mind would be Ginola, Gazza, Asprilla, Ben Arfa.  I think Allan is up there with the most skilful players that we have seen in a black and white shirt.  You can see the terror in defenders’ eyes when he takes them on (and who can blame them).  He has a way of dribbling which makes it look like the ball is glued to his feet.

But don’t forget that his first goal for Newcastle United was a well-placed header at Brammal Lane in an excellent 2-0 win versus a very defensively competent Sheffield United side.  The cross from Javi Manquillo still gave Allan a lot of work to do in order to get his headed effort in on goal.  He timed his run perfectly and guided his headband assisted header deftly into the bottom corner of Dean Henderson’s goal.  MAGnifique!

His second goal so far for Newcastle United came in the form of that stunning extra time winner in the 3-2 away win vs Oxford United in the FA Cup 4th round replay.  The skill to take the two defenders out of play on the edge of the box to create space for the shot was sublime.  Then if you watch him upon taking his shot, he winds up and puts so much power through the ball that he actually falls over after striking it.  He literally put everything into that shot and it almost took the back of the net off in the process.  And then what’s so nice to see was he ran back down to the opposite end of the pitch to celebrate in front of the away section with the travelling Toon Army.  Beau!

How about his goal at St.Mary’s against Southampton?  Well first of all let’s not forget that he actually won a penalty in the first half of that game (in strange fashion), which was extremely well saved by on fire Saints’ goalie Alex McCarthy (from Matt Ritchie).  ASM’s goal came about through his desire to close down the opposition defenders and chase a lost cause.

When a long ball went forward it looked like it would easily be played back to the Southampton ‘keeper or just put into row z by their right back Yan Valery.  But ASM was on the hunt, sniffing a scent of a chance in the air.  He used his blistering pace to pressure Valery into an error, before controlling well and placing an extremely cool finish into the bottom corner of Southampton’s net.  The backflip celebration in front of the travelling hoards of the Toon Army was as splendid as the goal itself.  Énorme!

There has been much speculation about players who may sign for Newcastle United when the Saudi backed takeover is complete.  It is certainly true that we need to strengthen our squad.  Allan turned 23 years old last month and, in my opinion, with the right coaching he will continue to develop into a Champions League quality player.  He certainly doesn’t need to be replaced at Newcastle with a big money signing, but some competition for his place will keep him on his toes and push him to perform to the best of his ability.  The more Premier League games he plays the better he will become.

What do the stats tell us?  Well going off whoscored.com (Premier League only stats), he is the highest rated player at Newcastle this season in terms of his overall contribution to the team (ahead of Jonjo Shelvey in 2nd and Ciaran Clark in 3rd).

ASM completes on average 4.4 dribbles per game, the highest by some margin, with Miggy coming in second at 1.5 per game.

To put that in perspective, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has completed an average of 5.4 dribbles per game this season in La Liga, only one more than our flamboyant Frenchman.  Mo Salah is on 1.7 per Premier League game for the Merseyside reds.  And Englishman Jadon Sancho stands on 2.6 per game at Dortmund in the German Bundesliga.

I personally think we have dug out a real gem here.  A player who has instantly become a hit with the fanbase and transforms our team for the better when he plays.  Long may we see the headband donning winger tearing up the Premier League, and hopefully European competitions, in the black and white stripes of Newcastle United.

Nous aimons Allan Saint-Maximin! (We love Allan Saint-Maximin!)

by Rob Clothier

Follow Rob on Twitter – @RobClothierTF

 

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