I’ll be honest over the summer when we’d brought Harvey Barnes in and reflecting on Antony Gordon’s January arrival, I felt the time might be up for Miggy Almiron. He’d just had the best season of his career as United qualified for the Champions League and with Financial Fair Play concerns driving a central part of our recruitment strategy it might have been time to cash out on our smiling Paraguayan to provide funding for new recruits. In my idle thoughts I’d imagined him moving to a mid-table La Liga side and seeing out his career in the Spanish sun with memories of his time on Tyneside to keep him warm as his playing days headed towards their autumn.
I’ve had the same thoughts about Almiron as many others in his time at SJP. I’ve wondered variously whether he could hit a cow’s arse with a cricket bat in goal-scoring positions under the management of Steve Bruce and if Rafa’s vision for him as an outlet to get the ball up the pitch and join in with Rondon and Perez had been his halcyon days in B&W. When he couldn’t get a regular spot in a struggling Steve Bruce side you had to wonder what the future held for the lad. To be fair that might have been a question to be posed for Joelinton, Jacob Murphy, Fabian Schar and Sean Longstaff too.
Even in the last couple of years when Almiron has played plenty and scored goals I’ve heard plenty criticisms and I won’t deny I’ve said them myself from time to time – far too one footed and reliant on checking back and playing back to Trippier on the right-side. I’ve felt we needed more quality coming down the right and my preference would be for a player to play on his natural side. Admittedly, I’m not one of the brightest football coaches in Europe like Eddie Howe so should perhaps keep my thoughts to myself!
But on Wednesday night I think I had a rare moment of clarity. Miggy Almiron is really good and I need to stop the laser focus on what I might think are the weaknesses in his game and celebrate his talents. It’s a long time since the days of Bruce when Almiron would cause me to turn to my mate in The Gallowgate and sigh … headless chicken in frustration but I am now completely convinced Miggy is simply fantastic.
I am now unashamedly going to appreciate his electric pace, his work-rate (which is the equal of Antony Gordon who gets so many plaudits) and well, his technique. It is not an accident that Howe plays him down the right-hand-side and those runs he makes – usually following balls from Trippier but we’ve seen those chips from Bruno for him to run onto have brought numerous goals as Miggy checks, opens his body and finds the perfect angle to completely flummox defenders and ‘keepers – remember those goals v Everton, Palace at SJP and Spurs last season amongst numerous others. Oh and a certain goal v PSG as he picked up on Isak’s saved shot on our right side to take the ball on his left foot and open up the target to give Donnarumma no chance?
On Wednesday night, whilst Livramento will rightly continue to have praise heaped upon him for his barnstorming run from our half after winning his challenge and then feeding Almiron, let’s pause for a second to appreciate Miggy’s finish. Let’s also reflect upon the clever pass to Willock to take out two defenders which subsequently led to the ball dropping to Lewis Hall on the edge of the box who finished beautifully with that sublime left-foot volley in front of a silenced Stretford End.
A while back no less than Kieran Trippier made the statement that Miggy Almiron is his favourite partner on the right flank and at the time I raised my eye-brows, imagining this was the kind of thing someone would say of a team-mate to give them a boost. I was wrong. The more you look closely at Almiron’s game, the more you can appreciate his quality and understand so much why Rafa wanted him at the club. For £20m the lad is an absolute steal.
Clearly, you can’t mention Miggy’s renaissance without understanding the context of Eddie Howe’s coaching and his ability to raise players out of what looked like downward spirals into the peak of their careers and onto levels we never previously thought possible.
Almiron is a machine. His engine is phenomenal and as we’ve seen last season and into this one his technique and appetite are everything we could ask for from a high-performing Newcastle United player.
I’ve decided to stop thinking about Miggy as a stop-gap type of player who will inevitably be replaced by a big money signing but rather a bona-fide star within Eddie Howe’s pool of players and a first name on the team-sheet kind of choice.
Miggy Almiron can write his name into the history of Newcastle United and on Wednesday night, the penny finally dropped for this oaf with him. He’s mint.
Miguel Almiron is a superstar and at last I understand that.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892