Steve Bruce’s remarkable July striker quote set to be put to the test

Callum Wilson faces a period on the sidelines (Image: Getty Images)Callum Wilson faces a period on the sidelines (Image: Getty Images)
Callum Wilson faces a period on the sidelines (Image: Getty Images) | Getty Images
Do Newcastle United have the Premier League firepower to keep their heads above water without Callum Wilson? Liam Kennedy recalls asking Steve Bruce that very question in July.

The AESSEAL Stadium. July 27, 2021. Approximate time, 9.22pm.

Moments after revealing details of his 'rollover' contract, Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce was asked, by NewcastleWorld, whether he thought he had enough firepower should the inevitable happen, and Callum Wilson miss any period of time due to injury.

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Well, six weeks on from that conversation, and theory has become reality, with Wilson not only missing the weekend's 4-1 loss to Manchester United, but also expected to be absent for another month.

Here's what Bruce said on the matter, the stats behind the issue and what likely happens next for the Magpies.

What is the issue with Wilson?

Wilson limped out of the 2-2 home draw with Southampton prior to the international break, having picked up a thigh injury.

The frontman missed the Old Trafford hammering with the issue and news is now leaking out that Wilson could be absent for six weeks, from point of injury.

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What games will Wilson miss?

While Bruce is refusing to put a timeframe on the issue, it is expected Wilson could be absent for the visit of Leeds United to Tyneside on Friday evening, as well as trips to Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers prior to the next international break in October.

Last Friday, Bruce said: "Callum won't make the weekend.

"We are not going to put a timescale on it. Frustrating for us and for Callum. It is unfortunate he has the thigh injury."

What did Bruce say about the issue in July?

Speaking after a 1-1 draw at Rotherham United, salvaged by makeshift striker Jeff Hendrick, Bruce said: "We’ve got Allan (Saint-Maximin), Joe (Joelinton), (Miguel) Almiron. We’ve got Dwight (Gayle). We’ve got five. How many do you have in a squad of 22 outfield players?"

Bruce added:“It is the difficulty we all face. Wolves faced it with (Raul) Jimenez. How important he is to them, they miss his goals.

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"We are not going to have a Saint-Maximin or a Callum Wilson in reserve.

"I am convinced we have enough goals in our team having watched us. Certainly at the back end of last year. We want to replicate that but also improve defensively.

“We have got to try and attack, looking at the team we have got we have two wing-backs who are attack-minded, we have two in the middle of the park who want to score a goal in Almiron and Joe Willock and two up top.

“I am convinced there are goals in the team. But we have to try and improve defensively and not leave the gaping gaps, big holes we did last week.”

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What next for United - and who fills in for the striker medium-term?

Joelinton was tasked with filling the Wilson-sized gap in United's frontline, and didn't disappoint with a physical showing.

Saint-Maximin, often United's Plan A, B and C, played more advanced and will likely continue to do so in Wilson's absence.

Gayle is another option Bruce may utilise up top.

How those options stack up? The stats behind Bruce's theory

As Bruce says, United do have options up top, but none have the Premier League prowess of Wilson.

It sounds like, reading between the lines of his summer quotes, Bruce believes there is goals elsewhere in the team, rather than necessarily in his forward line.

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The July comment is hardly a ringing endorsement of those tasked with replacing the striker.

And I suppose, Bruce is right to an extent.

Willock, the club's one and only summer signing, netted eight goals in his final 14 games of the 2020/21 Premier League season - an incredible return for the then 21-year-old. Although, has no goals in four this term.

Looking beyond that, Jacob Murphy's three goals from mostly right wing-back last season was also decent. He has, of course, already found the net this season, too but finds himself out the team after some shaky defensive displays.

Things do start to drop a little after that. Despite being one of the designated strikers in this system, Allan Saint-Maximin has scored just three goals last season, and four the year previous. It is, however, his assists and all round play that is of benefit to the team more than his goals. He has one goal this campaign.

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Outside of that, Miguel Almiron got five in 39 last season, even though he played chunks of the season out of position. Currently injured Jonjo Shelvey got two last season, although six the one before and Sean Longstaff has just two in total for United in the league.

Matt Ritchie, a source of a decent (ish) return during his time on Tyneside, failed to net at all last season.

Of the like-for-like replacements Gayle scored just one goal in 20 appearances for United last season. In 2019/20 it was four goals in 22 outings.

Joelinton was marginally better over the two seasons in terms of goals with the Brazilian netting six goals in 36 in all competitions last campaign, with another four in 44 coming the year before that.

The most goals Gayle has netted in a Premier League season was seven - that was for Crystal Palace in 2013/14. His United best remains the 2017/18 season (6).

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