Former Arsenal star and current pundit Ian Wright has been left raving over the difference that Newcastle United striker Islam Slimani made during the club’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal on Sunday.
The Algerian forward came off the bench with just under half-an-hour to play at St James’ Park, making just his second appearance after injury limited his playing time following his loan move from Leicester City in the January window.
Like his first outing against Huddersfield, he managed to make a meaningful impact, heading the ball into the path of Ayoze Perez, whose flick led to Matt Ritchie to score Newcastle’s winning goal.
Now Wright has been left wondering just how much more successful the Magpies could have been over the past couple of months after such an impressive cameo display.
Speaking on Match of the Day 2 on BBC (15/04, 22:30), he said: “Slimani only made his second substitute appearance today but you can see the difference he is going to make.
“Dwight Gayle was unfortunate today because he made some great runs and was on the end of Jonjo Shelvey’s passes.
“What this guy (Slimani) gives you is a little more physicality, a little more pace and energy and linking play up.
“If he could have been fit for longer periods in this season then Newcastle would be doing even better than they have been doing up to this point.”
Slimani, who missed out last weekend after being ineligible against parent club Leicester, now has five more games to feature in, as he seeks both his first start and goal.
Football Insider verdict
Both Gayle and Slimani deserve credit for their work up front, as they both made a contribution to the goals which led to the win. Gayle’s movement in the first half was causing the Gunners problems, and it was his run onto a long Jonjo Shelvey ball which resulted in Ayoze Perez’s equaliser – although his lack of physicality meant Arsenal saw more of the ball at the back. Slimani’s introduction changed the manner of play, as he won headers, forced fouls and generally bullied the visitors’ back line. His header to Perez was an opportunistic chance which he took full advantage of, and it ended up having the desired effect.
In other Newcastle United news, the club are set for a massive £100million-plus boost ahead of the summer window.