Eddie Howe reveals Allan Saint-Maximin challenge - and makes bold Newcastle United statement
Allan Saint-Maximin is tipped to play a huge role for Newcastle United during the second half of the Premier League season.
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Eddie Howe insists “best dribbler in the Premier League” Allan Saint-Maximin has a huge role to play in the second half of Newcastle United’s Premier League season.
The Frenchman began the campaign in top form for the Magpies - starring in the 3-3 draw with English top-flight champions Manchester City before being awarded Goal of the Month for his late equaliser at Wolverhampton Wanderers in August.
Indeed, the visit to Molineux was the 25-year-old’s last league start for United with a hamstring injury restricting him to just five appearances in all competitions since.
Howe’s men have coped without Saint-Maximin but Tuesday’s last 16 Carabao Cup win over Bournemouth was a reminder of just how important he is.
With Newcastle struggling to break down a stubborn Cherries defence, Saint-Maximin injected a huge amount of pace, trickery and energy from the substitutes bench to swing the momentum in his side’s favour.
Now, the challenge for the former Nice winger is to maintain his fitness and ultimately win back his spot in Howe’s starting XI.
“Huge,” Howe said when asked about the role Saint-Maximin has to play. “Maxi is a massive player for us. I talked about Jonjo (Shelvey) there and the unique things he has in his game that we want, Maxi is very much the same.
“I think you saw as soon as he entered the pitch against Bournemouth he’s got that ability to put the opponent on the back foot. For me, he is the best dribbler in the Premier League and you need that in your team.
“The challenge for Maxi... we’re building him fitness-wise back to his best levels. Being the player he is, he needs to be able to sprint repeatedly at high levels. He’s going in the right direction and is a key player for us.”
Saint-Maximin spoke to NewcastleWorld in Saudi Arabia and revealed his frustration at his injury, which he felt prevented him from earning a spot in France’s World Cup squad.
But Howe has praised Saint-Maximin for how he applied himself during his recovery, and hope that translate into a strong second half of the season, where United have one eye on the European spots.
Howe said: “Naturally, players are all different. Maxi has been very good in terms of his training and what he’s given to his training.
“Like any player, I feel there is so much more to come from Maxi. We’re trying to work with him on certain areas of his game to try and take him to that next level.
“He’s got undoubted ability and quality that we’re going to need in the second half of the season.”