NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has addressed fan fears about Allan Saint-Maximin’s Newcastle United form — and explained his decision to drop Chris Wood.
Saint-Maximin has been preferred as a central striker in the Magpies’ last two Premier League games, a 3-0 win at Norwich City and last weekend’s disappointing home loss to Liverpool.
And while the Frenchman remains a fan favorite on Tyneside, it is fair to say that his form has dipped significantly since his return from illness and injury in March.
Howe, however, remains unconcerned with Saint-Maximin’s recent performances, preferring to focus on the lack of quality service to the 25-year-old, whether out left or through the center.
“I’d never comment on any individuals,” said Howe when asked whether his player was going through a tough spell at present.
“I thought as an attacking force (against Liverpool), we probably weren’t at our best — Allan is obviously focal to that. But then again, we found it difficult to get the ball to him in dangerous areas.
“Maxi thrives on early balls to him and tries to get at the full-back and center-backs in one vs. one duels. I felt we could never isolate them (Liverpool) due to the fact you have to complement them. They do this week-in, week-out.
“Maxi worked hard and gave his best for the team, but from an attacking force, we weren’t quite right.”
With Saint-Maximin moving central it meant no space for New Zealand international Wood in the Magpies’ lineup.
While Howe has admitted previously he gave Wood a rest when Newcastle went to Carrow Road last week, last time out it was different.
Howe said: “Various different things. When you play the top teams, you won’t necessarily have the lion’s share of possession. We were looking to strengthen our defensive performance down the sides of the pitch and also try to get Maxi to counter attack in more of a central area. It didn’t necessarily work from a team perspective.
“Defensively, on the whole, we performed OK. They were always going to have chances in the game but I don’t think, although they had quite a few shots at goal, they didn’t have any glaring chances.”
Newcastle played a Reds side who nudged ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table with the win in the early weekend kick-off. The balance was redressed by Pep Guardiola and company later that evening when they ran amok at Elland Road against relegation-threatened Leeds United.
Things do not get any easier for the Magpies this time out having got by Liverpool, with the Citizens playing host to Howe’s side on Sunday evening.
Howe, though, is determined to not to see his side overawed.
“I want the mentality that we want to win every game, regardless of who our opponent is and regardless of where we play,” he said ahead of the Etihad clash.
“You can never be happy in defeat. I know my players will feel the same way. The biggest thing you can judge is your performance and our performance was workmanlike, but probably lacking in quality needed to win the game, or get something from the game. That needs to improve.”