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Allan Saint-Maximin: Newcastle United's talisman with dribbling to rival Lionel Messi - Jon Super

Allan Saint-Maximin: Newcastle United’s talisman with dribbling to rival Lionel Messi – Jon Super

A Saint could well prove Newcastle United’s saviour with the return of Allan Saint-Maximin dragging them towards Premier League safety and tormenting defenders on his way.

Steve Bruce’s team may have enjoyed a far more comfortable season had they not lost their best attacking player to both Covid-19 and injury. The winger scored one and made one in their comeback victory at Burnley and looked to have the beating of West Ham even before Craig Dawson’s sending off and a Lukasz Fabianski howler put Newcastle in control.

Consecutive wins have put Newcastle eight points above Fulham in relegation places, a deficit that was a perilous three points only a few weeks ago, but they will need all of Saint-Maximin’s flair against an improving Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.

Saint-Maximin has featured in 19 Premier League games this season, missing 13. Newcastle have a win ratio of 36.8 per cent when he is involved compared to just 15.4 per cent when he is not, scoring 1.3 goals per game on average compared to just 0.8.

When the Frenchman features, Newcastle take an extra three shots per game and average 1.3 points per game compared to a relegation-level 0.8 points per game when he is absent.

While we should be wary of Saint-Maximin’s relatively low number of minutes played, just 1,073 in the Premier League this season, he is up there with the division’s best attackers in some key metrics.

Goal-creating actions takes account of offensive actions leading to a goal, be it a pass, dribble or winning a foul. When this statistic is broken down per 90 minutes, Saint-Maximin is behind only Jamie Vardy, Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes and Jack Grealish.

His standout quality is his dribbling, second only to Wolves’ Adama Traore by volume, but Saint-Maximin is probably blessed with faster changes of direction. According to StatsBomb data, over the last year Saint-Maximin’s 4.69 completed dribbles per 90 is just behind Lionel Messi’s 4.94. He is without doubt one of the most exciting players to watch in the Premier League.

Saint-Maximin is in the early stages of his peak years too at 24. In days when everything seemed more normal, he would be a prime candidate to move to one of the ‘Big Six’ clubs this summer. However, given how they have hamstrung themselves this week and the determination to make them suffer, their loss could be Newcastle’s gain.