Jacob Murphy’s expression said it all, mouth gaping wide in pure bewilderment. Newcastle were 3-0 up inside nine minutes, and Murphy, a peripheral figure for much of his time on Tyneside, had just found the bottom corner from 30 yards. Newcastle would go on to find the back of the net three more times as they dismantled top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur 6-1. But for Murphy, this felt like the culmination of years of hard work.
In five years at Newcastle, Murphy has started just 58 games, and following successive loan spells at West Brom and Sheffield Wednesday, it seemed that in the Championship, he’d found his level. Eddie Howe had other ideas though, and since his arrival in 2021, Murphy has played an increasingly important role in the squad. This season, he’s displaced fan favourite Allan Saint-Maximin, and following his brace against Tottenham, the winger has hit best-ever goal tally for the club with four goals and two assists in 39 appearances.
Murphy came off the bench against Everton and scored to immediately restore Newcastle’s three-goal advantage in a 4-1 win at Goodison Park. The Magpies currently sit third in the league, two points above Manchester United (who have a game in hand) and eight above Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, both of whom have played one more than Newcastle.
“I’ve always thought Jacob had very special talents and abilities. He’s very quick and a very good one v one player. I’ve always preferred him on the right rather than the left and that consistency of selection has helped him. (I’m) Delighted to see him get the two goals. The second goal was a special finish, and he is capable of that. We see his finishing is at a high level, so it’s about getting himself in those positions as often as possible,” said Howe, following Newcastle’s statement victory over Tottenham.
And it’s this consistency that Howe alluded to that’s allowed Murphy to play some of the best football of his career. Playing off the right-hand side, Murphy’s attacking numbers have soared. The 28-year-old is averaging 3.82 shot-creating actions per90, and 0.51 goal-creating actions – the greatest attacking returns of his Newcastle career – whilst also taking more touches in the attacking penalty area.
Murphy has shown glimpses of this attacking flair throughout his career, particularly whilst on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, but he’s now beginning to replicate it at the highest level. Fearless in possession – he’s producing 4.68 progressive carries per 90 – and relentless out of it, ranking in the 78th percentile for blocks amongst wingers in the Premier League, according to FBRef. This is a player who knows he’s been afforded a lifeline and is grabbing it with both hands.
There will undoubtedly be upheaval in the coming years at Newcastle, and Murphy seems likely to be a victim of the team’s success. But having seemed destined for second-division football just three years ago, Murphy has put himself firmly in the shop window for potential top-flight suitors.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Alex Dodd – CameraSport