Of all of their failings during what has been a fairly dismal 2018/19 campaign, Newcastle United’s inability to find the net on a regular basis has been the most detrimental.
The Magpies have netted just 16 times in 22 Premier League games – the second fewest in the top flight, and far below their expected goals of 23.5 – and this impotence in front of goal has resulted in a place in the bottom three.
January, as ever, offers the opportunity to find a tonic to these woes. And the latest name to emerge as a candidate to do so comes in the form of Borussia Dortmund’s Maximilian Philipp.
A Germany Under-21 international, Philipp has had to make do with a bit-part role this term, scoring twice in 15 appearances in all competitions and only playing 22 minutes since October.
The 24-year-old’s desire for regular game time and United’s even more pressing need for goals as they look to stave off relegation means a move could make sense for both sides.
Dortmund, meanwhile, are eager to move Philipp on and an initial loan switch until the end of the season with an obligation for Newcastle to then buy the striker for £19million has been reported.
With United, or perhaps more accurately, Mike Ashley, frugal to the point of fault, there is little chance Rafael Benítez will be splashing his own cash in January regardless of bizarre calls for the Magpies boss to do so.
Supporters will, therefore, want to be assured their club is moving for a player who can fire United clear of danger before the season wraps up in May.
A record of ten goals in 21 Bundesliga starts across the past two seasons is a decent record for a player who has picked up just 1,722 league minutes since the start of the 2017/18 campaign.
Bundesliga goals have arrived at a rate of one every 172.2 minutes since he moved to Signal Iduna Park,but there is more to Philipp’s game than finding the net.
As you’d expect of a forward operating in Dortmund’s free-flowing attacking set-up, the former Freiburg man is technically astute and will regularly drop deep to link up with the midfield.
In doing so Philipp is able to provide a creative presence and his two league assists, which have come at a rate of 0.34 per 90 minutes across 11 outings, is evidence of his ability to pick a pass and bring others into the game.
That return is well ahead of the number of assists he has been expected to provide in the league in 2018/19 (0.18), while his expected goals (xG) of 0.83 is also short of Philipp’s actual output, suggesting he is an effective finisher.
Yet bettering expectations is nothing new for Philipp, as a quick look at his stats from last season will tell you.
Twenty Bundesliga games yielded a healthy return of nine goals and almost doubled his total xG of 4.77 for the campaign. Philipp knows where the goal is and how to find it.
Philipp’s relative comfort using either foot is also a plus point and the suggestion he would prosper given more game time is one worth giving credence to.
To describe United as anything other than profligate, meanwhile, would be remiss and only Salomón Rondon, with his five Premier League goals, has really got going this term.
Indeed United’s lack of cutting edge when through on goal means they are well off their expected goals total of 23.5 in the Premier League.
Their 31 goals conceded is the lowest of any side in the bottom six and a better showing at the other end of the pitch would surely have resulted in a healthier mid-term report.
Finding goals is, then, the key concern before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
While Philipp may not be able to provide them in the quantity some of Newcastle’s former greats have, his creativity and underlying quality could make a move a worthwhile gamble for United.