EPL

Almiron motivations 'greater than' Grealish jibe as Howe denies trying to replace seven-goal star

By Sports Desk November 04, 2022

Eddie Howe does not believe Jack Grealish's criticism of Miguel Almiron in Manchester City's title celebrations contributed to the Newcastle United winger's remarkable upturn in form.

In a clip that went viral, Grealish said in the aftermath of City's dramatic Premier League triumph he had welcomed the substitution of Riyad Mahrez against Aston Villa on the final day as his team-mate "played like Almiron".

It was a harsh jibe but one that spoke to Almiron's frustratingly ineffectual performances in a Newcastle shirt.

The former Atlanta United star too often lacked an end product prior to the start of this season.

But Almiron has spectacularly turned his Newcastle career around in 2022-23, scoring seven goals from chances worth just 4.2 expected goals (xG).

After netting his first of the campaign against Grealish's City in August, Almiron hit six in six in October – several of his strikes of stunning quality as Newcastle ended the month unbeaten.

Many have pondered whether there is a direct correlation between Grealish's criticism and Almiron's improved performances, although Callum Wilson this week said his team-mate "just shrugged his shoulders" at the incident.

Newcastle coach Howe was asked about the comments on Friday, and replied: "I've never discussed it with Miggy, because I don't see it being relevant at all.

"He's never discussed it with me. Personally, I don't think it would have any part in his thinking.

"I think Miggy's motivations are much bigger than that and greater than that.

"Any comment that anyone in the world would make – whether it's about me or someone else – I think you have to have a bigger picture.

"And the bigger picture for Miggy is being the best he can be for Newcastle. He loves the club, the supporters love him, he loves the supporters back.

"I think his motivations are greater than any comment from any individual. He's proud to play for his country, as well, so he's got huge positive things in his life that have driven him more than that."

Almiron initially thrilled after joining Newcastle in January 2019 but failed to score his first goal before the end of the season, belatedly ending that wait in December of the same year.

Until this term, he had never tallied more than four goals in a single Premier League campaign, underperforming his xG in three of four seasons.

It was expected then that Newcastle would seek to replace Almiron in the transfer window, but they instead focused their attentions elsewhere, buying goalkeeper Nick Pope, centre-back Sven Botman, left-back Matt Targett and striker Alexander Isak.

"I think the key thing is not to listen to outside speculation," Howe said. "For me, the targets we had in the summer were clear; we recruited in those positions.

"I've always said: if there's an area that we feel or players that we feel can improve the squad, we'll always look at that, regardless of who we have internally. That will never change."

He added: "Certainly the players that are here and have done well for us will be respected."

More recently, comments coming out of City in Newcastle's direction have been more positive, with Grealish's manager Pep Guardiola describing Howe's fourth-placed side as "contenders".

"I'd much rather people said nice things about us than not, but I'm not in control of that and it doesn't really change anything," Howe said.

"It's nice to hear people's opinions of us if they're positive, and if they're not, that's up to them.

"It doesn't change anything about what we're doing; only we can prove whether we're contenders or not. We have to do that on a weekly basis."

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    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

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    Chelsea 22.5%

    Draw 26.5%

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