Not only did Jonjo Shelvey make his much anticipated return, Yoan Gouffran’s play in the NUFC win was exceptional.
In an FA Cup third round replay fixture against Birmingham City, the main story was the return of Jonjo Shelvey from a misconduct ban. As expected, the Englishman was outstanding in the middle of the attack, firing long through balls to set up teammates, and delivering quality set piece deliveries. One player on the other end of Shelvey’s passing was Yoan Gouffran, who got the start alone up top for Rafa Benitez.
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Gouffran was incredibly active all match for Newcastle United, and most of his activity was successful. In the first big moment of the match, he timed his run perfectly, as Shelvey sent a great ball out ahead of him. He was able to control it, make one touch, and was then undercut by the Birmingham City keeper. It earned a penalty, which Matt Ritchie converted for the first score of the match. Next, it was Yoan’s chance to score himself. Shelvey curled a free kick to him barely inside the box, he controlled it up off of his leg, flicked it up again, and as he turned to goal, sent a shot past the keeper. It was a great finish, but Gouffran showed he was hungry for more, creating a few more dangerous chances the rest of the match.
A big reason his performance’s so important, is because it gives Rafa another legit option up top. Is he going to perform great every match? Of course not. But with Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic banged up at the moment, Gouffran showed he can fill in admirably. He also had great chemistry with Shelvey, who is the conductor of the Magpies attack. In addition, it affects the outlook on transfers. The club shouldn’t need to feel pressed to buy or loan a striker outside of their comfort zone this month, when they have a player already on the roster who can play that role. We will see how often Yoan Gouffran ends up at striker, but we can only hope it goes similar to today when he does.