Newcastle United‘s 1-1 draw against West Ham United on Saturday evening proved a particularly frustrating affair for fleet-footed Frenchman Allan Saint-Maximin, with the 25-year-old having seen his involvement limited on the flanks.
The former Nice dynamo had been afforded a rare starting berth as Joelinton dropped back into a midfield role to cover for the suspended Bruno Guimaraes, although the pacy winger failed to truly take his chance, having had a ‘disappointing night‘ according to the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder.
While Magpies boss Eddie Howe admitted that his side “didn’t get him the ball enough“, Saint-Maximin struggled when he was in possession, as he lost the ball on 13 occasions from his 34 touches and failed to provide a single key pass.
That outing encapsulated what has been a difficult campaign so far for the £70k-per-week wing wizard, who has just one goal and three assists to his name in 18 appearances in all competitions, having made only five top-flight starts.
Those woes have followed claims made during the summer that the former Monaco ace could be allowed to depart Newcastle for a fee of around £50m, while he was subsequently linked with a move to AC Milan last month.
Any potential departure for the 5 foot 8 speedster could well be hastened come the end of the season should the Tynesiders be able to secure a suitable upgrade, with recent reports having claimed that one such target could well be Napoli sensation Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
That’s according to CBS Sports reporter Ben Jacobs (via his Twitter space), as he revealed that Newcastle “have looked” at the 21-year-old amid his scintillating start to life with the runaway Serie A leaders.
This follows a 90min report in December which suggested that the Magpies were one of the clubs showing an interest in the Georgian dynamo, albeit with the Azzurri said to be holding out for more than £100m if they are to cash in any time soon.
Despite only arriving at his current club last summer, the 19-cap ace has already scored eight goals and provided nine assists in just 17 league games this season, proving to be something of a “revelation” according to The Athletic’s James Horncastle.
Not only is that return of goal contributions far greater than the aforementioned Saint-Maximin, Kvaratskhelia also appears to offer far more out of possession. He has averaged 1.4 tackles per game this season, in contrast to just 0.4 per game for the current Newcastle forward.
Equally, while the latter has been a rather underwhelming performer this season with a Sofascore match rating of just 6.85 in the Premier League, the Napoli starlet has a far greater average of 7.38 per game this term.
Kvaratskhelia’s superior quality is also showcased by the fact that he ranks in the top 1% among his European positional peers for assists and in the top 11% for non-penalty goals, while Saint-Maximin ranks in just the top 19% and the bottom 5% respectively in that regard.
As such, bringing in the “untamed” and “instinctive” Georgian – as described by New York Times correspondent Rory Smith – could well be a much-needed upgrade for Howe’s side.