Newcastle head into the sixth round of fixtures this season amazingly sitting in the Champions League places. Of course, this won’t last, but let’s enjoy such a strong start to the season. There is also every chance we can extend the feel good factor by picking up points at the Amex when we visit Brighton on Sunday.
Such a strong start has been helped by some excellent performances from some players who underwhelmed in the Championship last term. It could just be a coincidental purple patch, but there was a wider debate last year that some players are better suited to the top flight and not the Championship. Did you ever buy into this theory?
I have always been a fan of Lascelles, mainly for his heart and strong leadership skills. He has always appreciated the size of Newcastle and gets what it means to the fans. He played through the pain barrier last year with a hernia and is still young and improving at 23. However, some poor displays in the Championship can’t be avoided last year, where despite being skipper, he was often our weak link.
He was outstanding for the final stretch of games in the Premier League previously and has started the season brilliantly this year. The main thing has been his solid defending but his displays have also been capped with back to back match winning headers. Lascelles has his flaws but maybe the Premiership brings out the best of him. I personally think his main weakness is getting turned and being left one on one with an attacker, so being a side you is set up to defend first this season, not attack, could well be why he is doing so well.
Unlike Lascelles, Mbemba didn’t even play for last season. After showing promise the season before, alarm bells were ringing for the Congo international when he could not even get a game in the Championship. Injuries have seen him played at left back this year and he has looked excellent. Even when Gamez excelled at Swansea, Rafa drafted Mbemba back into the XI for the win over Stoke. He does give the bonus of added height when played at full back, which was no doubt in the thinking to deal with right forward Diouf last week, who is a towering presence. Like Lascelles, playing in a defence minded side could be helping him but he certainly looks far better at this level.
Now this one is more of a stretch. Unlike the two above, I don’t think Perez has started the season particularly well, despite being still trusted at number 10 by the manager. As always, his work rate is excellent and he is willing to be the first line of defence when pressuring the opposition on the ball. It is mystifying though that he looks exactly the same in the top flight as the Championship; he needs to do better clearly but the jump up doesn’t necessarily phase him. Longer term I think his position in the side needs to replaced with some real quality if he doesn’t up his game, but he acts as a good squad player in the meantime.
Like Perez, Mitrovic was poor last season. Just four goals in the second tier was alarming, even if he didn’t play every game. He continues to be frozen out, with Joselu preferred rather than Gayle last year. He has already scored against West Ham and I find it interesting he scored goals in the Premiership last time around yet struggled in the second tier; the physical nature of the Championship should have suited his style on paper.
Can the team keep up our form and do you think some players are better suited to the Premiership?
About Simon Riddlesden
Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.