Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is convinced there is more to come from record signing Alexander Isak as he comes to terms with Newcastle’s high-octane brand of football.
The Magpies’ £60million frontman scored his fourth goal for the club in Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League win over Wolves at St James’ Park after being preferred to Callum Wilson, who had been laid low by illness during the week.
Asked about his contribution, head coach Howe said: “Everything that a centre-forward needs, I think he has. He has pace, technique, strength, and then the goal pleases me because it’s not necessarily his trademark, but he needs to score all different types of goals.
“It was a really good ball in and a really good header. I think he’s capable of great things – it’s up to us now to keep him in a good place and feed him in the right areas.”
Isak made way 68 minutes into a tooth-and-nail scrap after fulfilling Howe’s instruction to run himself into the ground, with the Newcastle boss later clarifying his pre-match comments about the Sweden international not yet being ready to play 90 minutes on a regular basis.
Howe, who confirmed January signing Anthony Gordon is facing a spell on the sidelines with an ankle injury, said: “He’s fit to play 90 minutes for another team.
“There’s no concern over his fitness. I need to clear this up: it’s fit to play 90 minutes how I want him to play and what I demand from my players.
“That’s no slight on him, that’s just him adjusting to the league and to my style of play. He is very, very fit and he’s got a little bit more to go to be 90-minute fit for us, but that’s because we demand so much from our players. That’s no slight on him at all.
“I thought he was very impressive and showed what his game is all about with his pace and technique. The goal is a traditional Newcastle number nine finish and I’m delighted he scored that type of goal.”
While Isak caught the eye, it was substitute Miguel Almiron’s 11th goal of the season which clinched victory 11 minutes from time after fellow substitute Hwang Hee-chan had threatened to ruin Newcastle’s day with a 70th-minute equaliser.
Isak had headed the home side into a 26th-minute lead, but did so minutes after keeper Nick Pope appeared to bring down Raul Jimenez inside the penalty area after miscontrolling a back-pass.
However, he avoided a second red card in three games as referee Andy Madley waved play on and VAR official Tony Harrington agreed, much to the visitors’ anger and Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui’s disbelief.
Asked if his side should have been awarded a penalty, Lopetegui said: “Yes. For me, it was very, very, very clear – and not only a penalty, maybe a red card.
“But he [Madley] didn’t whistle for a penalty and the VAR doesn’t go to the referee, I don’t know why. But it was a pity.
“After we had to push a lot against a fantastic team. We deserved more, that’s true, but we didn’t get a penalty. Today it was very clear.
“VAR maybe can help more in this case.”