Matt Ritchie has spoken out about his recent move from winger to wing-back at Newcastle, suggesting his lack of pace made him unable to play in an attacking front three.
The 29-year-old played as a right-sided winger over the last two seasons, but Rafa’s move to put him at left wing-back has seen him be reinvented as a player.
This comes after Benitez’s big change in formation, seeing us go from a 4-2-3-1 to more of a 5-2-3, with Ritchie now operating as an all action wing-back down our left-hand side – a position that gets the best out of his tenacity, discipline and work rate.
Here’s what Ritchie’s had to say about his recent change in position, suggesting he isn’t enough of a threat ‘in behind’ to play in a front three:
“We’ve spent quite a lot of time playing with a front three – with Ronny, Miguel and Ayo – and, if you’re playing as a wide player in that formation, you have to be a real threat in behind.
“My strength isn’t really running behind. Don’t get me wrong, if we were a total football team it would be different, and it was different in the Championship because we had a lot of the ball.
“But, with the team we have now in the Premier League, we’re a bit more counter-attacking.
I enjoy playing wing-back – I get a lot more of the ball than I did higher up the pitch. I thoroughly enjoy the defensive side too.”
Interesting comments from Ritchie, who insists that he could still be a capable winger in a team that had plenty of the ball, however he admits here that he’s had to adapt his game in a counter-attacking side like ours.
It’s also great to hear that he’s enjoying playing as a wing-back – especially when there’s been talk of him leaving the club this summer over the past few months.
Ritchie had been starting to show his limitations as a winger, with his lack of pace or skill meaning he often struggled to beat his man, but his influence in this side can never be underestimated.
Flair and pace is one thing, but a player with Ritchie’s desire and determination is invaluable at a club that demands effort and energy.