Eddie Howe is hoping to see the best of record signing Alexander Isak in 2024 as Newcastle attempt to turn their season around.
The £63million Sweden striker has been hampered for much of his 16 months to date at St James’ Park by niggling injuries, but has shown in flashes the talent which prompted the Magpies to invest so heavily in his services during the summer of 2022.
Isak scored his 10th goal of the season from the penalty spot in Tuesday’s disappointing 3-1 home defeat by Nottingham Forest, and will return to the scene of his first on debut for the club on New Year’s Day when they face Liverpool at Anfield.
Asked if there is more to come from the former Real Sociedad player, head coach Howe said: “Yes, I think there is.
“He’s got so much within himself that he can help us with. He’s an outstanding technician, an outstanding athlete as well, and he knows where the goal is. He can score goals.
“It’s been a frustrating few weeks for Alex because he’s wanted to deliver physically so much more than he’s been able to. He’s been carrying a slight groin problem.
“He looks back to his physical best – I was pleased with him against Nottingham Forest, I thought he did really well. He could have scored probably two or three more goals on a different day. But he’s a real threat.”
Isak opened his Newcastle account with a superb finish to fire the visitors into a first-half lead on Merseyside on August 31 last year, but ultimately left on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline.
That was one of only five Premier League defeats for the Magpies last season but they have found the current campaign, which has included Champions League football for the first time in two decades, far more testing.
The Boxing Day disappointment at the hands of Forest was their eighth reverse of the league campaign and sixth in seven games in all competitions.
Asked if it was a time when everyone within the club had to stick together, a defiant Howe said: “I don’t think there isn’t a time when you have to stick together.
“The best clubs, the best teams do have that inner-strength and inner-belief in each other and team spirit that they can ride difficult moments and they can survive the successes because both are challenging.
“But I’ve got no issues with the players at all. I think we acknowledge that we need to improve and that’s what we’ll endeavour to do.”