Miguel Almiron is a conundrum. Hard to judge, tricky to assess. It is impossible to dislike him, he brings so much endeavour to a Newcastle United shirt but does not deliver enough moments like he did against Fulham.
What he lacks in creativity and goals, and what he cannot give in natural football intelligence and guile, he makes up for with the raw ingredients of hard work, speed and fitness.
Yet, few players can be as infuriating. Relatively simple chances often go begging but he is capable of scoring stunning goals. He is a riddle that is difficult to solve, as his magnificent volley against Fulham reminded us.
It was a sublime finish - an exquisite left-footed volley, as the ball dropped out of the air, coming over his shoulder from a chipped pass by Bruno Guimaraes. What followed was a sumptuous mixture of skill and technique, executed with control and finesse, the ball swerving over the head of the goalkeeper Bernd Leno, before dipping under the crossbar.
It will be a contender for goal of the month and probably goal of the season too, just as his wonderful curling strike from the tightest of angles against Crystal Palace last campaign was too.
It was his third goal in just eight appearances this season, making him the team’s joint top goalscorer alongside Callum Wilson. That is a vast improvement on what he has delivered over the last three campaigns.
The 28-year-old scored no goals in his first 26 appearances for Newcastle, following a then club record move from Atlanta United in January 2019. He has never scored more than four goals in a season and, even after his double in west London, still has just 17 in 131 games.
Looking solely at the stats, Almiron is an average winger. Yet he is loved on Tyneside in a way few players can be. There is appreciation for the effort and his smile is infectious, wide and childlike. Almiron plays the game in the right way.
Newcastle’s manager Eddie Howe is a fan, but there were times when he dropped Almiron last season. It is not just supporters who get frustrated with his lack of a final product. Indeed, as he said after the Fulham game “Miggy brings so much to the team, he does so much important work for us, stuff that people do not perhaps see.
“But as a winger in the Premier League you are ultimately going to be judged on goals and assists and he has not had enough of those.”
Newcastle’s coaching staff have worked hard on Almiron and Telegraph Sport can reveal that much of it has been stripping things down to the basics.
Pass and move may sound basic but Almiron does not do it enough. It was the key to his first goal as the moment he passed the ball back to Bruno, he was darting in behind. It is the message manager Howe has drilled into him more than most.
Almiron, at the moment, remains a scorer of great goals, rather than lots of them. And he is still not getting enough assists from threatening positions.
The performance against Fulham was one of his best in a Newcastle shirt. But the question remains, can Almiron do it again?
Report: Almiron stars for ruthless Newcastle
Newcastle United were slick, precise, quick and ruthless in their demolition of Fulham, but they could have easily won this contest had they turned up in flip-flops.
Fulham were abysmal, shambolic in defence and toothless in attack. It was, quite frankly, embarrassingly bad.
Certainly, in the first half it was difficult to imagine how things could have gone any worse for Marco Silva’s side. Every team has bad days, but this was dreadful. After such a good start to the season, it made no sense. No wonder managers have sleepless nights.
Perhaps it was just a bad start and things unravelled, but the nature of the capitulation will worry Silva and Fulham fans – who showed remarkable restraint not to turn on their players.
“We have hoped that performance and result was coming because we have played well and let games slip away from us this season,” said Newcastle manager Eddie Howe. “This felt like a pivotal moment in our season and we stressed that to the players.
That was difficult to tell as Fulham were down to 10 men after just seven minutes thanks to Nathaniel Chalobah’s stupidly reckless, studs-up tackle on the ankle of Sean Longstaff, and they were then also a goal down after 11 minutes. They looked beaten as soon as Callum Wilson gave Newcastle the lead, conceding three before half time.
If that was not bad enough to watch, top goalscorer Alexander Mitrovic limped off, followed shortly afterwards by left-back Layvin Kurzawa who had a torrid afternoon before asking to be substituted. It was just a matter of how many more Newcastle rattled in after the break, while taking off their two best players, Bruno Guimaraes and Wilson, to give them a rest on their return from injuries.
Wilson could have had a first-half hat-trick, missing a simple chance inside the first four minutes after Bernd Leno had done well to parry Dan Burn’s swivel shot and curling another effort wide looking to bend it into the far corner. Just minutes later, Fulham were reduced to 10 men. Referee, Darren England, was initially lenient, showing a yellow card, but the Video Assistant Referee duly intervened.
Fulham were a man down and then a goal down. Kieran Trippier’s delivery from the right was perfectly flighted to meet the head of Joe Willock’s run. The former Arsenal prospect did not connect perfectly, but the ball was still sneaking inside the far post. Wilson did not wait to find out, toe poking it over the line.
Newcastle were utterly dominant, picking passes through Fulham’s midfield and scored a breathtaking second through Miguel Almirón. Bruno was the architect but the finish was sublime. Almirón does not score enough and has a habit of missing simple chances too, but he also scores some stunners and this was as good as they get.
The Paraguay international watched the ball come out of the air, dropping over his shoulder, and then hit a perfectly controlled volley with his left foot into the far corner.
A flying save from Leno had denied Willock before another stop to keep out Jacob Murphy’s shot. From the resulting corner, Sven Botman was left completely unmarked and produced a looping header that was somehow tipped on the post by the goalkeeper. Sadly for the German, the ball fell perfectly into the path of Longstaff who made it three. Leno made another excellent save to deny Willock but Almirón got his second from Willock’s cross. Fulham’s consolation came three minutes from time, through Bobby De Cordova-Reid, with their first shot on target.
“We had a game until the sixth or seventh minute,” said Silva. “To go down to 10 men so early, it completely changed things.
“It was too, too sloppy. It was a harsh tackle from Nathaniel but the referee thought it was a yellow and he told me.
“I can accept the red card but I’m sure there will be other games where that is a yellow card tackle, we will see that in many games in the future.”