Cheik Tiote was a revelation last season. Quite simply he was excellent in his debut Premier League season.
When we signed him I remember questioning just why we needed a defensive midfielder, but he soon answered my question.
To me Tiote is one of the first names on the team sheet. He is a player that we can build around and, after a slow start, is once against starting to show his true worth to the team. In fact with two assists in the last two Premier League games there is an argument to be had that we are now seeing a better Cheik Tiote with more strings to his bow.
The improvement doesn’t end there for me though. My main criticism of Tiote was the fact that when he played the team would be guaranteed a yellow card. Put simply there would be no chance of sneaking in the Europa League by means of Fair Play with him in the side.
That isn’t the case thus far this season and we’ve seen a Tiote that is much less likely to pick up a booking. The nature of his game of his game is such that he will always be walking a tightrope with match officials, but it’s a case of so far so good for a very well behaved Cheik Tiote.
Tiote has been booked just twice so far this term. It’s early days of course, but if he averaged that throughout the season he would end up with only 12 bookings throughout the season. I say only, but it’s an improvement on last term anyway. Interestingly his two yellow cards thus far came at a time when he was a bit under weather in terms of his fitness. Now he is fully fit perhaps his average may drop further?
There is no doubt that he will be helped by having Yohan Cabaye next to him in the middle of the park. The Ivory Coast international has already said how he loves playing next to the Frenchman, and I can see why. Kevin Nolan was good for us, but he was always looking for that goal and struggled to waddle back into position which often meant that Tiote was left to hold the midfield together on his own leaving him vulnerable. He doesn’t have to do that any more as he has someone next to him who is willing to put a shift in.
So could we be seeing a better Cheik Tiote this term? Id like to hope so. I think with the help he is going to get from his midfield he won’t be left as exposed as last term with the result being that we’ll end up with a leaner, meaner and cleaner Cheik Tiote as a result.
Do you agree?