Alexander Isak took a while before starting to justify Newcastle United’s club record outlay but as the season nears its end, the Swedish striker is fast becoming a St James’s Park idol.
Isak reached double figures for the season with two goals in last weekend’s 6-1 rout of Tottenham Hotspur and now has four goals in his last five games as Newcastle accelerate towards a Champions League berth for the first time in two decades.
The rangy forward’s silky movement and clinical finishing have drawn comparisons with Arsenal great Thierry Henry and manager Eddie Howe said he can understand why.
“Everyone is different, there are no two players that are the same, but I do think he has some of the characteristics Thierry had,” Howe told reporters on Friday ahead of Newcastle’s home clash against bottom club Southampton.
Isak, who cost 70 million euros from Real Sociedad, produced a mazy run to set up a tap-in for Jacob Murphy in the 4-1 demolition of Everton on Thursday which put Newcastle on the brink of securing a top-four finish.
“He’s got the speed and a similar build and frame. The footwork for the assist (against Everton) was truly remarkable, and I think he’s got a lot of potential to improve and get better so it’s been a great, great start for him here.”
Newcastle is third with 62 points, eight ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand.
Anything less than maximum points against a Southampton side six points adrift of the safety zone on Sunday would be a huge surprise, but Howe is taking nothing for granted.
“It’s a difficult game. I think they are fighting. I watched the Arsenal game very recently -- they were very good against the league leaders, they scored three goals and looked a real threat in transitions and set plays,” Howe said.
“Things are going well and we’re not taking that for granted because we know quickly it can change, but we’re enjoying the feeling we’re having and long may that continue. I think there’s a real confidence about the group of players we have -- regardless of who we pick.”
Newcastle’s only concern is the continued absence of winger Allan Saint-Maximin because of a hamstring injury.
“He won’t be available for Sunday -- maybe the game after, but no guarantee at this moment,” Howe said.
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