Newcastle have a ‘mini Aguero’ on their hands – what should we do with him?
Joe Cole was the subject of much ridicule when he compared Adam Armstrong to Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero last November. The joke, of course, was that Cole himself had once been misguidedly compared to a world class Argentinean: “Messi can do some amazing things, but anything he can do Joe can do as well, if not better,” gushed Steven Gerrard when Cole joined Liverpool in 2010.
What wasn’t widely reported was that Coventry fans had been making the same comparison long before Joe Cole turned up at the Ricoh. The world’s best strikers clearly won’t be feeling insecure at the relatively modest progress nineteen year-old Armstrong has made this year, but Cole was spot on when he suggested that the England U19 international resembles Aguero in his build, and in his hunger for goals. No one is suggesting that Armstrong is ‘as good’ as Aguero, but it’s clear that they share certain attributes.
Armstrong’s centre of gravity is similarly low, and his control of the ball is outstanding. Like Aguero, this makes him a nightmare for defenders to deal with. He’s fast and direct, and has the confidence and ability to find space and time to take a shot in situations where a lesser player would dither – particularly at League One level, where defenders just aren’t used to contending with such dexterity.
It’s because of these qualities, perhaps, that he also has a propensity for the spectacular, as exemplified by this outrageous effort against Millwall in what was only his second league appearance for the club.
Tony Mowbray has favoured a 4-3-2-1 formation this season and, barring the odd exception to account for absences, Armstrong has led the line. He is more than capable of playing across the three behind, but it feels like a waste of his goalscoring prowess – particularly at our level, where strikers of his quality are virtually unheard of – not to utilise him as the main threat.
Armstrong is excellent at working the channels and anticipating through-balls, especially when working alongside attacking players of a similar pace and intelligence. He excelled playing with young, quick wingers such as Jacob Murphy, Ryan Kent and Rúben Lameiras in the first half of the season, and it’s fair to say he’s had less success feeding off the likes of Joe Cole and Stephen Hunt.
It’s been interesting to see how his goals have often come in clusters this season. Armstrong is prone to going four or five games without scoring, before scoring four or five in the space of a couple of matches. This would suggest that’s he’s a player reliant on confidence, and Tony Mowbray has remarked more than once that the immense pressure that Armstrong puts on himself to score when he’s in the middle of a drought may actually be a hindrance. I imagine with age and experience will come patience and a greater sense of perspective.
To grasp the scale of the impact he’s made at Coventry, you have to understand how bereft of goalscorers Coventry City been. Only twice since 1978 – Dion Dublin in 1997/98 and Callum Wilson in 2013/14 – has a Coventry player managed to score more than 20 goals in a single season.
At the time of writing, Armstrong is already on 19 goals with nine games remaining (plus the prospect of play-off fixtures if Coventry can get our act together). There is every chance that he’ll end his first full season of regular first-team football as the division’s top scorer.
Given Newcastle’s struggles this season, it’s not surprising that many have argued for Armstrong to be recalled at various points in the season. I accept that I write with a considerable degree of bias, but I genuinely believe that allowing him to stay with Coventry for the season was a decision that Steve McClaren actually got right.
With the money spent on Aleksandar Mitrović in the summer and the presence of relatively proven Premier League strikers like Ayoze Pérez and Papiss Cissé, Armstrong was never going to get near the first team without first going out on loan.
Having done so, all he’s truly proved is that he’s too good for League One and deserves an opportunity a higher level. It’s possible that he’s ready to bypass the Championship and step up to the Premier League, but why risk hindering the development and confidence of such a young, promising player by throwing him into the brutal arena of a relegation dogfight?
As everyone already knows, he’s a Magpies fan and his ultimate dream is to play for Newcastle at the top level; the last thing he needs is to shoulder such a huge burden at such a young age, and to potentially be known as one of the players who took his boyhood side down to the Championship. I can’t help but feel that the calls for him to be recalled have been symptomatic of modern football’s rampant short-termism.
It’s obviously not what Newcastle fans want to hear, but I believe the ideal scenario for Armstrong next season would be leading the line for Newcastle in the Championship. He’d be comfortable at that level, he’d be playing for a side who would surely be competing for promotion, and he’d have the incentive of being known as the man who took the club back to the top, rather than the other way around.
It’s looking increasingly likely that Coventry may not have enough to achieve promotion this season. If that’s the case, I don’t expect to see Armstrong back in a Sky Blues shirt again. I do know, though, that Coventry fans will remember him as one of the most technically brilliant players we’ve had in the last 10-15 years. It’s been a privilege to temporarily call him one of our own and to have played a part in his development – we wish him luck.
What do you think? Should Armstrong be loaned out again next season – or is he ready to lead the line at Newcastle?
Don’t want to wee wee on anyone’s bonfire here but we are talking about league 1 right? The gulf in class and speed of the game is huge, just ask Haris Vukic who looks brilliant with a bit more time on the ball in the championship………If he is good enough then he should be playing in the premier league. Good enough, old enough.
Having done so, all he’s truly proved is that he’s too good for League One and deserves an opportunity a higher level. It’s possible that he’s ready to bypass the Championship and step up to the Premier League, but why risk hindering the development and confidence of such a young, promising player by throwing him into the brutal arena of a relegation dogfight?”
Absolutely agree Tom/Harry, Arma may be pulling up trees in League 1 but thats a long way from the Premier league. Maybe in the Championship, alongside Perez and Mitro if they stay, he’ll be able to show us he’s on his way to becoming a top top striker ?
You really didn’t publicly suggest this kid will possibly be as good as the great Sergio Aguero did you?
Give the boy a chance, he’s a young kid he doesn’t need the pressure of that very silly tag, it doesn’t matter what his build is and all that rubbish, Aguero scores goals continuously at the highest level and that’s all that should be taken into account, it would be to much to say he might be as good a goal scorer as Shaun Goater never mind our great Sergio.
This is just a complete summing up of why Newcastle are in the situation that you are, the club is infested with unrealistic people who just fill their heads and clearly try to fill other people’s with nonsense.
It’s mind blowing how some fans can be especially of such a passionate club, concentrate on survival in the premier league instead of putting pressure on a young lad to be a future saviour, I go to st James every season and Newcastle fans are fantastic and I have never met one who would be interested in such rubbish at this time and for a Newcastle fan to suggest you can try this kid in the championship is disgusting, use your energy to write positive articles that will inspire your fellow fans continued support in the fight against relegation.
Have you even read this article? It was Joe Cole who initially made the Aguero comparison
Hi Gareth – firstly, thanks for taking the time to read the piece. Before anyone starts judging Newcastle fans, I should just reassert the fact that this was written as an honest assessment of Armstrong from the perspective of a Coventry supporter who’s watched him play many times this season.
Aguero is an important point of reference because, if you’ve ever seen Adam play, it’s so apparent how similar they are in both style and physique. No one is suggesting that Armstrong is going to be as good as Aguero (players of his quality are extremely rare) but it would almost be churlish to write 1,000 words on Armstrong and not make that comparison. It would be like trying to describe Kasper Schmeichel as a footballer without mentioning Peter.
I agree with you that it’s dangerous to expect too much too quickly of young players (I’ve alluded to that in the article) but Newcastle fans have genuine reason to be optimistic about Armstrong’s potential. Again, I say that as someone who’s watched him play on a regular basis, not as a magpies fan with my head in the clouds.
It’s also worth remembering that Adam has already made 15 appearances for Newcastle’s first team. After this season’s exploits, it’s hardly unrealistic to suggest that NUFC might be looking to phase him back into the first team picture sooner rather than later. Trust me – in the right team and playing alongside the right players, he is easily good enough for the Championship. Only time will tell if he can establish himself as a Premier League striker.