Alexander Isak scored another two goals in Newcastle United’s 4-0 thrashing of Tottenham at the weekend. Just how good is the Sweden international? We dive into his numbers.

They love their strikers up in Newcastle. Jackie Milburn, Andy Cole, Alan Shearer; those who bang in the goals to get the fans at St James’ Park on their feet are heralded as superheroes in that particular part of the north east of England.

In the last two years, those adoring eyes have been fixed on Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak, who have accumulated 57 goals between them in all competitions since the start of the 2022-23 season.

With Wilson absent with a pectoral injury since early February, the pressure has been on Isak to step up. And step up, he very much has.

The 24-year-old has scored seven goals in his last six Premier League games for Newcastle United, including a brace in the 4-0 win over Tottenham on Saturday. His first goal meant Isak became just the fourth player to score in six consecutive Premier League home games for Newcastle, after Shearer (15 in 1996-97), Cole (8 in 1993-94) and Les Ferdinand (6 in 1995).

Not including seasons when they were in the Championship, Isak is also now the first Newcastle player to score 20+ goals in all competitions in a season since Shearer in 2003-04 (28 goals).

Alexander Isak goals in all competitions for Newcastle 2023-24

It was a superb overall performance and win for Eddie Howe’s men against Spurs, and in the case of Isak’s two goals especially, there was a feeling of inevitability about them.

In Newcastle’s previous home game, Isak had chased a ball over the top of Everton’s defence before collecting it, cutting inside panicked defenders and slotting into the corner of the net.

Against Spurs he also ran onto through balls, evading a defender (in both cases Micky van de Ven) and dispatching his shots past Guglielmo Vicario with no fuss.

The Scandinavian is making ice-cool finishing his trademark.

Van de Ven has had an outstanding debut season at Tottenham, but on this rare occasion was made to look very silly on multiple occasions. Even his famous recovery pace wasn’t enough to stop Isak, who expertly cut inside him for the first goal, and timed his run perfectly to stay clear of the Dutchman for his second.

Isak has 21 goals in 34 games (30 starts) in all competitions this season, with an impressive 17 goals in just 24 games (21 starts) in the Premier League. That follows 10 goals in 22 appearances (17 starts) in the league in his debut season in England after his big-money move from Real Sociedad in August 2022.

His 17 Premier League goals this season is already the joint-most scored by a Swedish player in a single campaign in the competition, along with Zlatan Ibrahimović for Manchester United in 2016-17, so Isak seems likely to break that before the campaign is over.

He has already played more Premier League minutes this season than he did last, and has also featured almost entirely in his favoured position as a central striker.

During his debut campaign as a way to get both Isak and Wilson into the team, Howe often deployed the Swede out on the left.

Alexander Isak position minutes 22-23
Alexander Isak position minutes 23-24

Isak has the close control to be a useful option there, but this season has left no doubt that he is at his best when played through the middle.

While finishing one-on-one chances has become somewhat of a trademark for Isak, he has scored all kinds of goals this season.

His first came in the opening-day thrashing of Aston Villa at St James’ Park. A well-worked free-kick saw Sven Botman pull the ball back for Isak to slot a first time finish past Emiliano Martínez. There were also two real ‘number nine’ goals in the 2-2 draw at West Ham in October, one a similarly finished effort from a free-kick routine, while the second saw him waiting in the six-yard box to convert a volleyed cross from Kieran Trippier.

One of Isak’s biggest assets is his ability to find space, whether that be by making runs off the shoulder of the last defender or by standing relatively still and waiting for the space to open up around him.

He demonstrated this to perfect effect in the 4-1 home win against Chelsea last November when he was stood in the middle of the penalty area, moved very slightly to become open for the pass from Lewis Miley, then took full advantage when panicked movement from the visiting defenders left him with time to control the ball and slot past Robert Sánchez.

For a team who do not exactly pile players forward and flood the box, Isak scores a lot of goals in central areas between the penalty spot and the goal.

As you can see from their open-play touch zone map, Newcastle only average 29.1 touches each game in the opposition penalty area. It’s the seventh most in the league, but a fair way behind the likes of Manchester City (42.5), Arsenal (40.6), Liverpool (38.7) and Tottenham (37.3), so it’s up to Isak to make full use of his few moments in that area.

Newcastle open touch zone map

Isak has also displayed measured finishing when scoring four out of four penalties in the Premier League this season, but he is not drastically outperforming his non-penalty expected goals (np xG). He has scored 13 non-penalty goals from 12.8 np xG, but does have the joint-best goals-per-90 rate of any player in the division at 0.86 (min. 160 minutes played) along with Cole Palmer, and ahead of Erling Haaland’s 0.82.

Alexander Isak xG 23-24

Of those who have played at least 600 minutes in the Premier League this season, only Nottingham Forest striker and former Magpie Chris Wood (38.7%) and Luton Town’s Elijah Adebayo (32.1%) have better shot conversion percentages than Isak’s 28.3%, but the Swede has attempted more shots than both of them combined. (60 to Wood’s 31 and Adebayo’s 28).

Only Haaland (16) has converted more than Isak’s 15 big chances – defined as a chance from which the attacking player would be considered likely to score – with the Newcastle man attempting 16 fewer (46 to 30).

Like Haaland, Isak doesn’t have many touches per game. Only six forwards in the Premier League to have played at least 600 minutes this season are averaging fewer than his 30.9 touches per game, with two of those being Haaland (23.7) and Ollie Watkins (29.9). That seems to be due to the instruction of Howe though as Wilson only averaged 33.2 touches per game himself before his injury.

As Isak’s heat map below shows, he mostly stays central these days, but also loves running in from left channel, which has brought some comparisons to Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. He might not be as quick, but it feels like a particularly apt description when you then see Isak stroking the ball with purpose into the far corner of the net in the way Henry used to with such regularity.

Alexander Isak open play heat map 23-24

Isak also looks after the ball well. Of forwards in the Premier League to have played at least 200 minutes this season, only Haaland (5.9) averages fewer than his 8.3 losses of possession per game.

In fact, as you can see from Opta’s Player Radar comparison below, the player in Europe’s top five leagues who profiles most closely to Isak is indeed Wilson. That either speaks to the consistency of Howe’s setup and instructions, or to Newcastle’s recruitment that they found a player who can recreate what Wilson gives them. It’s also interesting to see Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane not too far down that list.

Such is the way of football, an exciting talent emerging in the game will be met with transfer rumours. Mostly due to reports that Newcastle may be forced to sell before they can buy in the summer, there have been suggestions that sharks such as Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea could circle.

His manager recently said: “To be the team we want to be, we need to keep our best players.” That seems clear and reports also state that Newcastle have no intention of entertaining bids for Isak, while the player himself seems settled and happy.

And why wouldn’t he be? Newcastle still have a great chance of qualifying for Europe again, while he’s playing in a team that suits him and for a fanbase that adores him.

After spells with Borussia Dortmund and Real Sociedad, he arrived in Newcastle with quite a bit of experience for a then 22-year-old.

At 24, Alexander Isak has the world at his feet. As such, expect the world to be slotted calmly into the corner of the net.

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