KIERAN TRIPPIER admits he and his Newcastle United team-mates are still learning how to get the best out of club-record signing Alexander Isak.
Isak scored his second goal since making a £60m move from Real Sociedad when he slammed home his spot-kick in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth, but while he made no mistake from 12 yards out, the Sweden international rarely looked like troubling the opposition goal from open play.
The same was true of the previous home game against Crystal Palace, with Isak occasionally appearing isolated as he led the line in the absence of the injured Callum Wilson.
Wilson’s anticipated return after the international break should help take some of the pressure off Isak’s shoulders, but Trippier also accepts that the rest of Newcastle’s players have to learn how to get the best out of the 22-year-old striker.
“He’s (Isak) slotted in straight away, like he’s been here for ages, but it’s about developing as a team,” said Trippier, who has been captaining the Magpies for much of this season, with club skipper Jamaal Lascelles generally being consigned to the bench. “We need to find his strengths.
“We know what they are, and everyone’s seen since he’s arrived what he’s all about. I played against him in La Liga, so I know. He plays off the shoulder, he’s quick and he’s good in the air. He’s an all-round complete striker, at such a young age.
“He’ll keep growing and scoring goals for us, but it’s about not just relying on him. For the last two games, we created so many opportunities, but need to start putting them away.”
Isak showcased his qualities during his debut at Liverpool, when he scored a superb goal to break the deadlock at Anfield before having another effort narrowly disallowed for offside.
He was devastatingly effective on the counter-attack on Merseyside, but has looked less dangerous when positioned against massed defences in Newcastle’s last two home games at St James’ Park.
In the wake of Saturday’s draw with Bournemouth, Eddie Howe conceded his side are having to come to terms with playing against teams who just want to sit in against them. Isak will be part of the solution to that challenge, with Trippier confident the Swede will be a key factor in determining the course of Newcastle’s season.
“I know how hard it is to go to a different league and culture, but he’s slotted in straight away,” he continued. “He scored a fantastic goal at Liverpool.
“He’s developing really well and is leading the line well. It’s not easy coming into the Premier League because it’s totally different from any other league. But he’ll keep scoring goals, for sure.”
Saturday’s failure to see off Bournemouth was a disappointment, with Newcastle still searching for a second league win of the season following their opening-day success over Nottingham Forest.
Performances have generally been good since that Forest game, although Trippier accepts standards slipped slightly as the Magpies toiled at the weekend.
“It wasn’t good enough,” he said. “We’d not played for two weeks, so there are no excuses, we should have been full of energy. At times these things happen though. We have to give credit to Bournemouth, but there are no excuses, we just didn’t perform in the first 45 minutes.
“The second half was a bit different – we had a lot of possession, but it’s about being patient and controlled and, at times, we weren’t when we were shooting from 40 yards. That’s not us, so that is the next step, breaking teams down.”
Trippier will spent the next week on international duty with England as Gareth Southgate’s tackle Nations League games against Italy and Germany. A couple of positive results are needed if England are to avoid relegation to the second tier of the Nations League, and Southgate will also be looking for pointers as he ponders his line-up for his side’s opening World Cup group game against Iran in two months’ time.
“It’s always an honour (to go away with England),” he said. “Going back to my debut against France, I always love going, whether I’m playing or not.
“Everyone knows how much I give to the team, it’s good to meet up with them. It’s two massive games for us to qualify in the Nations League, and it’s always good to see the lads and manager, and then when I come back, the games come thick and fast.”
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