Newcastle’s hopes of avoiding relegation from the Premier League could depend on the understanding between star men Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson.
Head coach Eddie Howe has revealed that finding the best way to use the skills of his two most dangerous players has been a major focus during his first few weeks in the job.
Saint-Maximin’s pace and power and the potency of six-goal striker Wilson are perhaps the most effective weapons at the Magpies’ disposal as they attempt to dig themselves out of a hole.
However, as they prepare to face Manchester United on Monday evening, Howe is still honing his team in an effort to get the best out of them.
Asked about the Frenchman in particular, he said: “It is not aimed at Maxi, it is aimed at everyone. One of the ways that we work is that we attack with relationships.
“The only way you build those relationships is through repetition of training, so attacking with everybody together as a team when you know what each other are going to do, it’s a huge advantage.
“We have started that work, that work is going on every day. I have seen some good things in training – we probably haven’t seen as much as we’d want in the matches, but that could possibly be down to the two teams we have faced in recent matches (Liverpool and Manchester City).
“We have not had a lot of the ball, so we’ve been mainly counter-attacking in the games. But I’m looking forward to seeing that work come out in the future.
“Maxi is part of that, as everyone is. You can’t attack as individuals. It is not as effective as when you attack together.”
Saint-Maximin’s efforts in recent weeks have excited but not necessarily resulted in end product and, with Wilson having scored only twice in his last nine games, Newcastle need the pair to find the same wavelength as soon as possible.
Howe said: “Maxi is a huge, huge player for us. He’s the catalyst for many of our good things.
“It’s all about us trying to, as a team, function well enough and give enough stability to the team to then allow him to showcase his talents, give him the ball more, get him the ball more in the attacking half – these are all things that we know we have to do because he’s such a dangerous player.
“We’re still working out, I think, the best way to utilise him in all phases of the game, but we know when we can get him more of the ball in those attacking moments… That’s a big structure of our work at the moment.”