Football Features

Newcastle’s ‘three amigos’ explained: Rafa’s record move inspires elite creativity

By CJ Smith

Published: 13:42, 30 March 2019 | Updated: 14:19, 1 April 2019

Since making his debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers in February, Miguel Almiron has been something of a revelation for Newcastle United.

The Paraguayan was no secret in North America, scoring 13 goals and providing 11 assists for Atlanta United as the Five Stripes stormed to MLS Cup glory in 2018.

However, he was still a relatively unknown quantity on these shores, with pundit and ex-England defender Danny Mills even admitting he’d ‘never heard of him’.

“I’ve never really heard of him, in all honesty,” Mills told BBC Radio 5 Live upon his arrival.

“It’s not a signing that makes you go ‘Oh wow, this is inspiring’. It may be a record signing but it’s not that stellar signing who you know is going to score goals.

“He is very much an unknown. He might take time to settle as well.”

Well, Danny, you should have done your research.

Almiron has taken to Premier League life like a duck to water. Sure, he hasn’t actually attributed a goal or assist yet, but his creative output since his debut has been quite phenomenal.

Since making his debut during game week 26, the 25-year-old has created 11 chances from open play, with only James Maddison (15) and teammate Ayoze Perez (14) creating more during that time.

Therein lies the key. Almiron’s incessant need and desire to attack has turned Newcastle from the kings of pragmatism into a genuinely exciting attacking force. ‘Miggy’ has initiated two fast breaks during his time with the Magpies, bettered in the Premier League only by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (three), while his ability to hug the touchline or drive inside as he sees fit has made Rafa Benitez’ side far more unpredictable. Back-pedal has become front foot.

The main benefactors of that have undoubtedly been Perez and Venezuelan striker, Salomon Rondon. As mentioned, Perez has been the league’s second-best creator since Almiron’s arrival, while he has also backed that up with three goals and an assist during that time. Hell, even Isaac Hayden has started driving forward from his deep midfield position, level with Almiron and Rondon on 11 chances created.

The Magpies are causing havoc for their opponents and Almiron, Perez, Rondon and co are even outperforming the likes of Eden Hazard (six) and David Silva (nine) for chances created from open play since their draw with Wolves.

Rondon, meanwhile, has taken his game to new levels. Almiron is an expert at working with Venezuelan strikers, helping Atlanta’s Josef Martinez score a ridiculous 31 goals in 34 MLS games last season, forming a dynamic and often heartwarming brotherhood with the ex-Torino man. Since he arrived at St James’ Park, Rondon has bagged three goals and two assists in just six games, having only scored or assisted a combined 10 goals in the 20 games prior.

He’s very dynamic and he has good pace and good movement behind defenders, but also he has good movement between the lines.

Rafa Benitez on Almiron following Newcastle’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield.

Given that he often drifts behind Rondon, Almiron can often be a nightmare to pick up, helping him take 1.02 shots on target per 90 minutes this season – the most at Newcastle. However, when a defender or midfielder does move out to mark him, that space is then opened up for Rondon and Perez, with the latter becoming devastatingly good at exploiting any confusion in the opposition’s final third.

Stories emerging from the north east are already refering to the Almiron/Perez/Rondon partnership as the ‘Three Amigos’ and the trio are already thought to have struck up a strong bond. Given the evidence being shown on the pitch, this bond is very quickly becoming both apparent and telepathic.

A club-record £20m may have seemed like a big risk at the time for a player whose only quantifiable experience was in MLS and the fears surrounding Almiron’s ability to handle that kind of pressure were understandable.

However, in just over a month, the Paraguay international has revitalised the Newcastle United attack, making them the most creative force in the Premier League during the past six games and playing a huge part in them rising from 17th to 13th England’s top flight.

It’s only a matter of time before Almiron himself begins notching up the goals and assists.

Stats correct at the time of publishing (1.30 PM, 30/03/13)