Rafa Bentiez and this group of Newcastle players continued their incredible form with a superb comeback win over Arsenal at the weekend. Unbelievably, we sit in the top half and within two points of 8th place. Rafa has worked wonders with this squad; who knows what we could achieve if he received genuine financial backing.
Along with the manager, the likes of Lascelles, Diame and Shelvey have quite rightly drawn praise from the media and fans alike. They have been outstanding recently and key to our rise up the table and to safety. However, there are also three other players who deserve a special mention. After all, you get the sense that it is our squad unity that has got us into this position; one which we would have all grabbed if offered back at the start of the campaign.
The Spaniard has been a revelation in recent weeks after a slow start to the season. He has scored 3 goals in his last 3 games and also has 3 assists in his last six games as well. We all know that end product has been his Achilles heel but he does have a good habit of scoring important goals; winners against Stoke and Huddersfield spring to mind this season.
His work rate, attitude and application have never been questioned during his time with us and it is nice to see him playing so well. Until we sign a quality number 10 (hopefully this summer) I have always felt, with the players we have currently, Perez made us a better team even if he doesn’t play well offensively. His work rate and movement always cause problems, even if his touch can be frustrating. There is a nice stat this season that backs this up.
When Perez has started in the Premier league this season:
Played 21 – Won 8, Drawn 7, Lost 6 (Points per game 1.48)
When he doesn’t start:
Played 10, Won 1, Drawn 1, Lost 8 (Points per game 0.4)
Ritchie shone last year in the Championship and like Perez, has outstanding work rate and application on the pitch. He has struggled to have the same impact in the Premier League and the higher level has meant he has often lacked that pace to get past his man or make something happen from nothing.
But he has come into form at just the right time; his winner against Manchester United has launched our season and break away from the bottom three. He now has 3 goals in his last 4 games and has been a key part of us winning four games at St.James’ on the bounce. He remains a fan favourite and it is nice to see him getting the rewards for his hard work.
A bad injury from a poor Harry Kane tackle on the opening day halted his progress this season but after a run in the team, the presence of Lejeune has paid dividends. Clark did a good job for us last year but Lejeune looks a cut above and has formed a solid partnership with skipper Lascelles. We always look solid at the back and can’t think of a time we have been rolled over this season or collapsed.
We have three clean sheets in our last four at home with us now having a settled side. Spanish pundits had said he would prove to be an excellent capture from Eibar and he has enjoyed a great first season in the Premier League. He is strong, good in the air and also has nice distribution – his ball for our second goal at Leicester was excellent and he pinged some incredible 60-yard passes in behind for Gayle on Sunday.
Diame, Dummett, Shelvey, Lascelles and Kenedy have taken the headlines in recent weeks, but I feel these three deserved a special mention.
Which players do you think deserve the most credit for our recent form?