Newcastle look all but set to smash their transfer record for a signing with the acquisition of Real Sociedad striker Alexander Isak.
Eddie Howe wants to bolster his forward line with the Swedish international striker, who will cost the Magpies a reported £59 million, with possible add-ons which could eventually take the fee north of £60m.
Isak would be the club’s most expensive purchase and a statement signing by the club’s Saudi Arabian owners who hope to propel the club into the elite over the coming years.
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But what will Newcastle be getting for their money? Eurosport Spain’s Jorge Ordas provides an insight into the 22-year-old’s time in La Liga and what the Toon Army can expect from the hitman.
Mobility and dribbling skills
At 6’4”, Isak towers over many of his fellow players but is certainly not the archetypal ‘target man’, offering much more.
“Newcastle will get a point of reference up top,” says Ordas. “But with a lot of mobility despite his stature.”
This mobility is manifested in the form of electric pace, which was demonstrated in what may well be his last Sociedad goal, scored in the recent 4-1 defeat to Barcelona.
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Starting his run from deep, Isak blitzed his way past Eric Garcia forcing the scrambling defender into a desperate last-ditch lunge that couldn’t prevent the ball looping off the Swede over Marc-Andre ter Stegan and into the Barca net.
“Isak is capable of playing on the wing and has dribbling skills” added Ordas, suggesting that Newcastle and Howe may well benefit from a versatile and flexible addition to their attack.
But how will he fit in at St. James’ Park? Howe has favoured a 4-3-3 formation which has seen them unbeaten in their first three Premier League matches including holding reigning champions Manchester City to a thrilling 3-3 draw.
Isak should be familiar with the set-up from his time at Sociedad according to Ordas, meaning he should not have trouble slotting in – especially with continued question marks over the long-term fitness of Newcastle’s current centre forward Callum Wilson.
“Real Sociedad has been alternating systems between 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1... with Isak mainly at the point of attack,” says Ordas.
“His presence stood out above all in the 2020-21 season (in which Sociedad won the Copa del Rey) as a central striker in the 4-3-3 where he was accompanied by Portu and Mikel Oyarzabal.”
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That season was Isak’s most fruitful in front of goal for the Basque club, finding the target 17 times in total.
However, there was a notable drop-off last season with a return of just six goals in the league and 10 in all competitions.
This record has caused eyebrows to be raised over his hefty transfer fee with concerns about possible inconsistency in his play.
“To be honest, in Spain the amount paid by the player has caused a great surprise,” says Ordas. “It is true that he has sometimes been compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic because of his size and ability, but these flashes of quality have been shown on few occasions.
“Isak's departure has been a surprise not only because of the money paid. Perhaps it was more expected the previous summer, when he had just had a great season.
“He is a somewhat ‘irregular’ footballer, although he may find his best version in English football.”
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'Real Sociedad has grown in recent years thanks to players like Isak'
Lack of goals aside, Ordas again points to Isak's versatility and effectiveness even when not scoring as a benefit to any team he plays in.
“The 6 goals from last season are far from the 17 he scored in 2020-21,” says Ordas, “But in addition to his possible effectiveness in front of goal, he is a player who creates spaces and combines well in attack, capable of dribbling even inside the area and dragging quite a few defences”.
But How have his three years at the club been viewed by Sociedad fans? Will he be missed? Ordas believes that while the player has indeed helped them improve, the fee can be reinvested and other good players remain at the club.
“It all depends on how the money is invested,” he says. “Real Sociedad has grown in recent years thanks to players like Isak, but not only because of him, since they have other interesting names like Mikel Oyarzabal, Robin Le Normand or Mikel Merino, and this season Take Kubo or Brais Mendez.”
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