Last Monday evening saw the Premier League debut of Miguel Almiron (£6.0m), Newcastle United’s club-record signing and a potentially exciting differential option for Fantasy managers in the final third of the season.
The Paraguayan midfielder, who joined the Magpies from Atlanta United on a five-and-a-half-year deal in January, played the final 18 minutes of Newcastle’s 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers and looked sprightly in his brief cameo, creating a late chance for Ayoze Perez (£6.1m) and demonstrating his lightning pace and dribbling ability in what little pitch-time he was afforded.
Almiron is an all-the-more intriguing midfield option given that Newcastle
The Magpies are also guaranteed a fixture in the Blank Gameweeks of 27 and 31.
Almiron was born in Asuncion
After 39 Primera Division appearances, five league goals and two domestic titles, the-then 21-year-old Almiron departed for Argentinean club Lanus in August 2015.
Almiron only hit three goals in 35 league appearances for Lanus but was instrumental in their 2016 Primera Division win, before departing for Major League Soccer in December 2016.
It was with Atlanta United that Almiron’s goal involvement statistics started to warrant attention.
In his debut season in MLS, Almiron scored on nine occasions and set up a further eight goals in 30 league appearances.
The Paraguay international bettered those totals in his sophomore campaign, scoring 12 goals and registering 13 assists in 32 MLS appearances.
Almiron also scored in the MLS Cup Playoff quarter-finals, going on to help Atlanta to victory in that competition in his final match with the club.
Newcastle’s January window signing was named in the MLS XI in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
According to Who Scored, Almiron ranked second for goal attempts in the 2018 MLS season and joint-eighth for key passes.
The Paraguay international also sat joint-third for accurate corner-kick deliveries and fourth for dribbles attempted.
Almiron’s final goal for Atlanta was a free-kick against New York City FC in December 2018, while he also scored five penalties for the MLS club during his time there.
We were following Miguel Almiron for a while, and we saw a player with some pace in attack, who can play behind the striker. We have someone who can score goals and give assists.
His impact in MLS has been really good – he’s been one of the best players this year – and hopefully he can give us more competition and more quality in the final third.
Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, current Mexico coach and former manager of Almiron at Atlanta:
Miguel has a commitment to the team, I’m talking about his commitment to winning the ball back, pressing, he’s a player that’s always working.
He’s an atypical number ten. Because he gives you everything that a number ten gives you and he probably dispossesses players like a defensive midfielder.
So as a player who always works hard, he’s never absent in a game, even a game where your team isn’t dominating the offensive facet of the game.
Warren Barton, ex-Newcastle defender and current pundit based in America:
I think he can do well at Newcastle. You can rotate him a little bit and he can play on the right or the left, but I think he wants to be in the middle. He’s not like a Keith Gillespie-type of
winger, someone who will knock the ball forward and run.
I think he’ll be ideal for us if we have two holding midfielders who can get the ball to him as quickly as possible and then he can be that link between the midfield and the forward.
He’s someone who can drop in a little bit when we haven’t got the ball but when we do have it, we can give it to him and he can try to make things happen. That’s where I see him fitting in.
For all the arresting attacking statistics and appetite-whetting YouTube compilations, so much is still uncertain about Almiron as a player and his ability to cut the mustard in the Premier League.
Understandable (and perhaps snobbish) caution surrounds any import from a league such as MLS: for every success story such as Clint Dempsey, there is a Jozy Altidore (who admittedly arrived in the Premier League via a circuitous tour of Europe).
Almiron’s ability to compete in physical leagues in South America is a positive sign, however, as was his determination to get stuck in at Molineux on Monday – even if he did rather milk a couple of robust Wolves tackles.
Almiron’s first challenge is to break into the Newcastle starting XI, which is by no means a certainty in Gameweek 27 given that Benitez has named an unchanged team for the last five league matches in a row.
The man Almiron replaced on his debut, Christian Atsu (£5.1m), looks to be the player most at risk from the Paraguayan midfielder’s arrival on Tyneside.
Almiron mostly played as a central number ten for Atlanta during his two years in North America but, as a left-footer, would seem just as ideally suited to Atsu’s current role in Benitez’s now-favoured 3-4-2-1.
Atsu has shown plenty of industry and fleeting glimpses of skill over the last two months, starting all but one of Newcastle’s last 11 Premier League matches.
A lack of end product blights the Ghanaian winger’s game, however, and he is without a goal or assist in 2018/19.
Perez, the man that Almiron would seem likely to play alongside just behind Salomon Rondon (£5.7m), has only four goal involvements all season, meanwhile.
Newcastle’s lack of goals this campaign might give Almiron’s prospects of a first Premier League start a boost, particularly with more “winnable” games ahead and the need to take three points from teams such as Huddersfield Town (United’s opponents next weekend) to stave off the very real threat of relegation.
The Magpies are the second-lowest scorers in the Premier League this season, having hit the back of the net on only 22 occasions in 26 matches.
United have scored just 13 goals in 16 fixtures against sides outside of the top six in 2018/19.
Newcastle sit bottom for shots in the box this season, while only two clubs have registered fewer attempts on target and big chances.
It is asking a lot for Almiron to single-handedly improve those figures or indeed score a hatful of FPL points in a side that has such a defence-first mindset as Benitez’s Newcastle outfit.
Nevertheless, he has arrived on English soil at just the right time to enter the mid-price midfield debate, with Newcastle’s fixtures appealing for the rest of 2018/19.
Almiron would particularly seem suited in matches when Newcastle are content to soak up pressure (i.e. away games), with his pace and dribbling ideal for swift counter-attacks.
The Paraguayan’s arrival could also boost the appeal of Salomon Rondon(£5.7m), who so often subsides on scraps but who could benefit from the creativity of Almiron behind/to the left of him.
The first impressions of Almiron in a Newcastle shirt – and the footage of him playing for Atlanta – suggested a ‘Hatem Ben Arfa with a work ethic’-type character.
Time will tell if he can make a similar step up to the Premier League as the mercurial Frenchman did but the comparative dearth of attractive £6.0m-and-under midfield options in FPL makes him a very exciting prospect.