Twelve months ago Joe Newell was about to embark on a run of form that made people sit up and notice.
In the late autumn and early winter of 2015-16 Newell was an integeral part of the Rotherham side which picked up five wins in 11 Championship games and it looked as if they had a real talent on their hands.
He scored the winner against Leeds, got another against Hull and ran Bolton ragged on Boxing Day, running in two man-of-the-match performances with data providers Opta.
Fastforward a year and the Millers are still waiting for the 23-year-old to recreate those sparkling performances.
Never forgiven by Neil Warnock for missing a golden chance at Burnley, Newell was forced to watch most of the relegation-beating run from the bench as the veteran boss preferred striker Matt Derbyshire on the left.
Injury then struck which brought an early end to his season and kept him out until the end of August this term.
And, although he is among many, this time round the Millers are still waiting for Newell to produce his best and have – so far at least – been left without much of a key contribution.
Here’s a look Joe Newell’s performances this season and why Rotherham should be expecting more from him.
During that magnificent run of form last season Newell was a regular on the scoresheet and bagged five goals in 11 games, including key strikes against Leeds, Hull and Cardiff. However, this season he has yet to break his duck and in fact has barely even threatened, managing just five shots at an average of 0.6 per game. Last year, while still in a struggling team, he operated at 1.1 per game.
Along with his goalscoring prowess of last season, Newell has also been unable to recreate his creativity. He produced six assists last term – second only to Danny Ward – at an average of about one every four and a half games. This year, so far, he has been unable to create any goals directly.
And that is due to the fact he is creating less chances. Last season he produced 57 key passes (passes long or short that result in the recipient having a shot) which was 24 more than anyone else and average of 1.6 per game. This year has seem him make just nine in nine appearances.
Again, in defence he may point to the system Rotherham have used. Last term 35 per cent of the key passes were long balls (i.e crosses), but that was with mainly two strikers in the box. This season, Ward has been, up until Kenny Jackett’s arrival, been the only man in attack.
Use of the ball
Newell is generally comfortable on the ball, but he is giving it away more this season. Operating at a 64.8 per cent successful pass completion rate, he is below the overall average of the team. One in three of his short passes have been misplaced, whereas he made three out of four last term. His long balls have improved, however from a 31.6 per cent success rate to 41.6.
He has been dispossesed 11 times, with it only happening to Izzy Brown, Danny Ward and Jon Taylor more often, while his control has let him down, on average, once a game.
To single Newell out for under-performing could be harsh – only Danny Ward can come out with real credit so far this season. However, the frustration with the former Peterborough man comes from knowing he can perform at this level, having done it for a two-and-a-bit-month spell last season. That started the first week back after the November international break, so perhaps he is a slow starter and takes time to come into his own – especially considering his injury. He remains a potential matchwinner and when he gets the ball the expectation levels raise. One thing is certain, however, and that is that if Rotherham are going to have any chance of saving their season, they will be relying on Newell to raise his game.