Kenedy, Dubravka and Slimani may have been the only ‘official’ new arrivals on Tyneside during the January window, but the return and rise to form of certain players makes it feel like we signed much more than 3 new players last month.
Momentum is priceless at this time of a season and although all our business was done in the latter stages of last month’s window, we’ve seen several players up their game at the perfect time to give them that famous ‘like a new signing’ feel.
So, aside from the 3 new-boys, here’s a few players who have had or could be set to have that new signing effect on the team ahead of the final 11 games.
He showed signs of improvement before the turn of the year, scoring at West Ham and putting in a massive shift at home to Man City, but his performances have gone up another notch over the past 6 weeks.
He’s gone from a player several fans were hoping to see the club sell in January to our top performing midfielder, going from misplaced passes, a sluggish demeanour and slack touches to a an all action midfielder enforcer whose looked stronger, fitter and sharper in all he does.
I’d thought that this team lacked a tackler and a reliable defensive midfielder when heading into the January window, but it feels like we’ve suddenly signed one given Diame’s sensational turnaround in form.
Dummett’s influence and the significance of his return may be lost on some Newcastle United fans, but our vast improvement defensively has gone hand in hand with his return to fitness – and that is no coincidence.
Since he returned to the side in the 0-1 home defeat to Man City we’ve concede just 8 goals in 9 games – and impressive stat given we’ve played Man City twice and Man Utd in that time.
Prior to his return to the side, we conceded 18 goals in the 9 games before that – highlighting how Manquillo or Mbemba just don’t offer that same defensive reliability that Dummett does.
His return has been massive. We don’t score many goals, so keeping to goals out at the other end is key and he’s a big part of what we do well defensively.
Jonjo Shelvey / Florian Lejeune
Now these two I’ve put together as the tag ‘like a new signing’ can’t be made after just one good game, however Shelvey’s outstanding display against Man Utd and Lejeune’s hugely impressive return to the side does bode well IF they can keep it up.
We all know Shelvey is capable of some Hollywood moments, but it’s lack of discipline and his tendency to drift in and out of games that we worry about. He was all action on Sunday and measured in all he did. It felt like the penny may have dropped given it was the sort of occasion we’ve seen him let us down in the past? Let’s hope so, because a focused and firing Jonjo Shelvey will give us a whole new dimension in midfield – as he proved last weekend.
Then to Lejeune. He looked shaky alongside Clark *in Lascelles’ absence) prior to his injury, however he looks a different player next to the skipper and showed this again on Sunday with a classy display. He’s a better ball player than Clark and gives us an air of calmness at the back, so his return and promising looking partnership with Lascelles could be another timely boost.
The phrase ‘like a new signing’ is often a tedious expression for most football fans to hear, but you can’t deny the impact Diame and Dummet have had following the former’s rise to form and the latter’s return to the team.
Lejeune and Shelvey could be the next two to have that same effect, but either way Kenedy and Dubravka have made an immediate impact, Slimani is still to come and Diame and Dummett have made a huge difference.
What next? Maybe Matt Ritchie will rediscover his old form after finally getting off the mark last weekend. It’s early days and all the above need to keep plugging away and performing each week, but there’s been plenty positive signs over the last few weeks that bode well in our bid to beat the drop.