The 7th of April marks exactly a month of football to be played in the EFL Championship for the 2016/17 season. For United, the mission remains the same as before the disappointing reality check away at Craven Cottage on the 5th of August; gain promotion to the Premier League. With a crucial run of games commencing away at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, another three points are vital to ensure that United leave behind the Play-Off places and finish on top of Rafa’s ‘mini league’ and indeed, the Sky Bet Championship.
Newcastle’s newest number nine, Dwight Gayle, is currently the league’s second top goal scorer with 22 goals; second to Leeds United’s Chris Wood. It’s been an impressive season for Gayle who had a lot of expectation on his shoulders when he arrived on Tyneside for around £10m, not only by all associated with Newcastle but the rest of the Championship also.
The ex-Eagle has missed ten league games this year, six of those the result of a thwarting hamstring injury. The severity of the injury only sheds more light on his proficient statistics for this season, however.
Gayle has made 30 appearances in the league with 25 of those being starts and has only scored 2 goals as a substitute; resulting in 20 goals in 25 league starts as well as 2 assists. Although Gayle has 2 goals fewer than Chris Wood, he has also played almost 1,000 fewer minutes than his opposing number (Dwight Gayle has played 2106 minutes, Chris Wood 3095 minutes) and is averaging a goal every 96 minutes compared to Wood’s 129.
Are those numbers sustainable enough for the Premier League? Third in the goal scoring charts is Brighton’s Glenn Murray with 20 goals in 800 more minutes than Gayle. Murray has himself applied his trade in England’s elite division recently for Bournemouth and received mixed reviews for his performances. He scored 3 goals in 19 league appearances, 6 of those being starts.
Comparatively, Gayle made 64 league appearances for Crystal Palace in the Premier League, 27 of those starts, scoring 15 goals. Many believed Gayle had more to give to the South London side who were struggling for attacking options at the time, which is why the move to Newcastle was a perfect suit for both parties.
There’s no doubt about it; United are in need of at least one striker. There remains uncertainty surrounding the abilities of Aleksandar Mitrovic, but he has age on his side and his passion and aggression is something Newcastle fans won’t want to see hastily leave. With Daryl Murphy seeming an unlikely option to turn to in the Premier League and Ayoze Perez maturing into a deeper number 10 role, Dwight Gayle will be the initial port-of-call for Benitez regardless of new signings.
The opportunity is begging for a Newcastle striker to overcome the pressures of filling Shearer’s Umbro Speziales. This doesn’t mean scoring 260 Premier League goals; it means bringing consistency to United’s front line. For all the goals he’s scored this season, let’s give Gayle a go next season.