While Matheus Cunha hasn’t added to his goal tally in recent matches, he has played a significant role in Gary O’Neil’s tactical strategies during the win against Manchester City and the draw with Villa. Cunha did manage to score his second goal of the season in the triumph over Bournemouth. Although O’Neil is still working on enhancing Cunha’s offensive threat, he’s pleased with the progress the Brazilian is making as the team’s central forward.
Describing Cunha’s impact, O’Neil stated, “He’s a free-spirited player who enjoys the freedom to move around and get involved in various areas.” O’Neil is cautious not to stifle Cunha’s natural style, but he emphasizes the need for a central forward who can lead the line effectively.
“We’re trying to make him understand that we need him to be the focal point of the team, without sacrificing his unique qualities and versatility,” O’Neil added. “He’s taken to this role quite well. We require a traditional central forward, but Cunha brings a different dimension, and we want to harness his full potential.
Cunha is an industrious player, and we’ve put in extra work with him. He’s a fantastic individual who constantly strives to make a positive impact on the game. He has played a significant role in our recent good performances.
“He has shown substantial improvement. We’re not looking to change his style; he’s on the right path, and he possesses remarkable skills. We’re focused on improving his goal-scoring statistics because he’s been getting into promising positions. For instance, he was in the right place for both goals against Manchester City and scored at Crystal Palace. He also had a good chance against Liverpool.
“We want him to contribute to our build-up and playmaking, but when it counts, we need him right in the middle to score goals because we rely on our central forward for that.”
Despite Sasa Kalajdzic coming off the bench to score the winning goal in the last match, Cunha is expected to start against Newcastle, alongside Pedro Neto and Hwang Hee-chan.
O’Neil’s selection dilemmas will mostly revolve around other positions, as Nelson Semedo and Mario Lemina are back from suspension. While Matt Doherty performed well against Bournemouth, Semedo has been O’Neil’s preferred choice and may return to the lineup.
In the midfield, the pairing of Joao Gomes and Boubacar Traore didn’t work in the previous game, and Tommy Doyle impressed coming off the bench, putting him in contention for a starting spot. O’Neil will need to decide whether to bring back Lemina.
Jean Ricner-Bellegarde and Hugo Bueno have been sidelined due to injury, and it remains uncertain if they will recover in time for the upcoming fixture. If Bellegarde is fit to play, O’Neil might be tempted to include him in the lineup.”