Around Christmas time last year, it would have taken a brave Newcastle fan to predict the rise of Mo Diame in 2018.
He was jeered off the field at St. James’ in a mid December defeat to Everton and had put in a series of lethargic and poor displays – leaving fans mystified as to why Benitez kept playing him.
Fast forward six months and he has been instrumental as Newcastle secured an impressive top half finish and without doubt our top performer in 2018.
His turnaround has been nothing short of incredible, but the Senegalese powerhouse is facing another big test this coming season:
He’s actually playing for his NUFC future
It is easy to forget as he’s been our best player in 2018, but he is actually out of contract next summer. He turns 31 next week so will be almost 32 when his current deal expires next summer. He’s been brilliant, but he’s got it all to prove again this season if he’s to earn an extension. It is well documented Rafa needs to trim the wage bill so he might need to assess whether he sees Diame as part of the long term at NUFC.
He may also face competition as Merino has vowed to become an ‘important player’ for us. Let’s hope Merino can use the rise of Diame as inspiration for him to improve his form which has been the polar opposite to Diame, outstanding early season and poor in 2018.
Can he maintain his 2018 form?
This is the important question and he has been so good recently it is hard to imagine him going back to his poor form when he initially joined. His own turnaround coincided with our turnaround in form, allowing Shelvey to thrive – meaning, it would be quite a disaster and setback if he suddenly went back to his form of 2016/17 (or first part of last season)
He really was outstanding and just like we’d be weakened if we lost Kenedy, we’d be set back considerably too if he suddenly went back to his old ways. He has been dominating midfield in some all action displays and did all the dirty work that’s allowed the likes of Kenedy and Perez to shine.
Relying on him maintaining this form is a big risk
It would still be a gamble for Newcastle to presume he’ll be as good in 2018/19 as he has over the past 6 months.
He’s looked a new man and different player all together, but he’s getting older and we can’t forget that he’s actually struggled for the vast majority of his two years stint at NUFC.
Not signing a midfielder to compete with him would be very risky and will be on Rafa’s mind as he formulates his transfer plans this summer. Even if he still performs as he has been recently, an injury would cause us all sorts of problems with a lack of depth in the squad. Ideally, we would have Shelvey, Diame, Merino and a new midfielder firing on all cylinders.
What’s your take on Diame – will he replicate his recent form in the coming season?
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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.