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Bruce lauds Miggy's recent impact

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Steve Bruce has paid tribute to Miguel Almirón as the Newcastle United attacker looks to carry his recent form into Saturday’s Premier League clash at Southampton.

Almirón’s brace against West Brom in the FA Cup on Tuesday night saw the Paraguayan establish himself as the Magpies’ leading goalscorer this season, taking over the mantle from Jonjo Shelvey.

Having been deployed in a wider role for much of the campaign, the former Atlanta United man has taken up a more central position over the past week, with head coach Bruce having shifted to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

And that, the United boss believes, has brought the best out of Almirón, who started just behind Dwight Gayle against Burnley last Saturday and fellow South American Joelinton at the Hawthorns.

“We’ve played him in his best position, for me, which is probably off the front. The last two games in particular, he’s looked like a really, really good player,” Bruce said.

“It’s brought him back to life again. He took his goals brilliantly well the other day. It took him a long time to get up and running but you cannot deny the kid’s a very, very good player, who’s a manager’s dream. Running-wise, every statistic he wins – whether it’s training or in a match. He’s one of those delights to manage. He’s never a problem – he trains and plays with a smile on his face. You want people like that to do well, and he’s arguably our best player.

“I think it’s important he plays in his position. I think he’s played to a side to help the team and the balance of the team, but we’ve certainly seen the best of him over the past couple of matches.”

Saturday’s opponents lost eight of their first 12 games in the Premier League this season – including an infamous 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Leicester – with boss Ralph Hasenhüttl allegedly coming under pressure coming into the winter months.

The Saints have won eight of their last 15 in the top flight, though – overtaking the Magpies in the table in the process – and Bruce praised his counterpart for overseeing an impressive turnaround in fortunes.

“Once he’s been here, he’s done very well in the Premier League,” Bruce said. “He comes with a big, big reputation, and when you’re up against it, as managers, you hope they pull through and they get a couple of the results that they want. We all understand what happens if you don’t – that’s how brutal it is. Fair play to him to react and change system a little bit, and that reaction is there for everybody to see. I’m pleased for him.”

Wide-man Allan Saint-Maximin, who started at West Brom after coming off the bench against Burnley, is expected to be fit to face the Saints. Bruce revealed he has a slight doubt about Javier Manquillo – who only returned from a two-month lay-off last week – though, otherwise, there are no fresh injury concerns for the United head coach.

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