On August 2nd, Newcastle United completed the signing of Allan Saint-Maximin for a fee of £16.5m. The winger comes in and takes the number 10 shirt many expected would be Miguel Almiron’s this season.
Newcastle’s attack force has been disrupted by the departures of Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon. In Saint-Maximin, Newcastle have brought in a bit of a wildcard player with a view to adding an air of excitement to the team.
French outlet GFFN have likened him to Ben Arfa and raised question marks over his attitude. While that may put off some managers, Newcastle United have made it clear this summer that they will press ahead with a recruitment strategy that ignores any influence from the man in charge.
However it wouldn’t be fair to Saint-Maximin to dismiss him from the off, it is best to look at his career so far and assess what he will potentially bring to the side ahead of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign.
- Position: Forward (comfortable on either wing and has played striker on occasion)
- Age: 22 (D.O.B – 12th March 1997)
- Height: 1.73m
- Club career record: 15 goals and 19 assists in 147 appearances
- International career: Capped from U16 to U21 level, scoring 9 goals across 32 appearances. Uncapped at senior level
- Contract Status: Summer 2025 (6-year contract)
- Headband: Gucci
Club Career Summary
Having been part of their youth system since 2011, at 16, Allan Saint-Maximin debuted for Les Verts during the 13/14 campaign, tasting Ligue 1 and Europa League action as part of a busy season for the club, with the Frenchman only making 5 senior appearances, in addition to playing for the U19 team on a regular basis.
The 14/15 campaign was another one to ease him into senior football, Saint-Maximin amassing 12 appearances in total across all competitions, but only completing 90 minutes once. However, he did manage 2 assists in the little play time he got.
AS Monaco (2015-2017)
Allan signed for Monaco in July 2015 for a fee of £4.5m, but only made 1 league appearance in two seasons. Rather, he was loaned to Hannover (15/16) and Bastia (16/17) before transferring to OGC Nice.
The winger’s time in Germany was mixed, to say the least. Amassing a steady 15 league appearances and scoring 1 goal, he was mainly used as an impact sub, taking to the field as either a left winger, right winger or a 10 in an effort to cause disruptions when coming on.
However, off the pitch matters came to the fore in April 2016 when he crashed his car into a tram, injuring a passenger, and showing a fake license obtained from Bulgaria to the police. That, coupled with the fact he only made 1 league appearance after February, and it’s fair to say Saint-Maximin needed to make his next loan more impactful for football reasons.
His season at Bastia in 16/17 was a much more successful one on an individual level, if not as a team, with the Corsican club having played out a relegation campaign, finishing rock bottom of Ligue 1.
For Saint-Maximin, however, it was his first season as a first team regular. He only missed 4 league games, 1 of those due to a red card suspension. His goal contribution of 6, split equally between goals and assists, was a career best to date. He began to build a reputation as an excellent dribbler, exciting fans yet frustrating them in equal measure with a lack of end product.
OGC NICE (2017-2019)
Joining Lucien Favre’s side on August 7 2017 for a £9m fee, Saint-Maximin played 40 games in all competitions during 17/18, including Champions League qualifiers against Napoli and 4 games in the Europa League after Napoli dispatched Nice 4-0 on aggregate.
This time around he managed 14 goal contributions, 5 goals and 9 assists as Nice finished 8th in the league and reached the Europa League round 32.
18/19 saw a change of managers at Nice, with ex-Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira taking his first European managerial job, replacing a Favre headed for Borussia Dortmund. Vieira’s much more defensive style impacted Nice’s season in terms of goals, scoring just 30 (20 from open play) and conceding 35. Favre’s 17/18 campaign, by contrast, saw a league haul of GF 53, GA 52.
Lucien Favre had this to say about his performance in a post-match interview during the 17/18 season:
“Allan Saint-Maximin was strong with his individual runs, but it’s easy when you only play with the ball. He has to work very hard, because playing as part of a team is another matter.”
Style of Play
When you read Ben Arfa comparisons, it’s not difficult to envisage what type of player we’re buying here. Bags of tricks, skillful dribbling, and a pacey forward should mean plenty of excitement, and plenty of groans as Saint-Maximin struts his stuff in the Premier League.
His tendency to dribble is clear, as he registered 4.2 dribbles per game in 18/19, compare that with Atsu (0.9), Ayoze (1.2), Almiron (0.7), and Murphy (0.3) and you can get a sense of just how much Saint-Maximin thrives on driving up the pitch. He is also not shy of shooting, taking 75 in total last season, a team-high.
Of course, he does not neglect the creative side of the game, registering 58 total key passes (1.75 p/90) last term. This compares with Atsu (18 total, 1.1 p/90), Ayoze (45 total, 1.37 p/90), & Almiron (19 total, 0.8 p/90).
Regarding attacking movement, ASM is prepared both to take on players with the ball at his feet, and run into space looking to receive a ball over the top, offering a counter-attacking threat.
This is a player that will put attacking instincts first, with stats suggesting he isn’t as industrious at the defensive side of the game as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from our forward players under Rafa Benitez.
During 18/19, he registered 12 successful tackles, attempting 24. Contrast with Ayoze Perez (59 successful tackles, 105 attempted), & Atsu (24 successful tackles, 35 attempted), and you can see that ASM lags behind in this metric. Interceptions and fouls are also metrics he doesn’t do too well in (making 0.1 interceptions p/90) and rarely fouling, showing a reluctance to battle back for the ball.
Of course, different systems must be taken into account. Bruce is not Rafa Benitez and may not give his forwards as much defensive responsibility, so where Saint-Maximin might potentially have been incompatible in the old system, it might be that he thrives in this one. Whether the team will be any better for it remains to be seen…
Saint-Maximin in action
Dennis Wise is a cautionary tale in Youtube scouting, but what fun is it to profile a player purely in words without any footage? Here is a clip showcasing Saint-Maximin can be effective when chasing balls over the top, something the likes of Schar and Shelvey will be more than happy to provide.
And of course, to show how clinical he can (but won’t always) be.
Advanced Stats (18/19)
Perhaps it’s not a fair comparison to pit Saint-Maximin against Ayoze Perez as they are not similar in play style, but where creativity and productivity are concerned, Ayoze was a bountiful source last season. If Joelinton is to be assessed against Rondon’s share of goal contributions, then it only seems fair to analyse Ayoze’s and Saint Maximin’s comparative numbers.
- It’ll be very difficult for Saint-Maximin to match Ayoze’s tally of 12 league goals. That tally in itself is not commonly achieved in a black & white shirt nowadays, with Loic Remy (2013/14) the last player to score more than 11 league goals before Ayoze managed it the previous campaign. Saint-Maximin is young and this side of his game has plenty of room to grow, but if he chips in with 5-7 goals that would be acceptable for him, provided he is a reliable goal creator.
- Speaking of creativity, it is a lot more encouraging on ASM’s part. His stats in the 3 metrics of Key passes p /90, Expected Assists p/90 and Assists p/90 exceed Ayoze’s. Taking this into consideration on top of his gifted dribbling ability, expect to see plenty of action in the final third for our new signing.
- However, it would be shortsighted to leave the stats just at the expected figures, the performance must be assessed. Ayoze was clinical in front of goal scoring 12 despite an xG of just 8.29. Saint-Maximin is the reverse story, under-performing his xG of 7.45 (scoring 6), leaving room for improvement on that end.
There is no doubt that Newcastle United have signed an exciting player. The price is a modest one relative to the big spenders. However, 2019 has seen Newcastle United finally catch up in terms of paying the going rate (maybe even overpaying) for players. It’s up to Saint-Maximin, Joelinton, and Steve Bruce to ensure it was money well spent.
Expect dribbles, tricks, shots, colourful headbands, and to be frustrated & entertained in equal measure. The most important thing is to ensure that he can fit into a system that brings the best out of him, and helps the team boost their attacking prowess, an area sorely in need of improvement having lost 2 dependable scorers from an already low-scoring side.