After the crushing of Birmingham, Rafa Benitez was more than happy to talk about his first choice front two.
Whilst Dwight Gayle grabbed the match ball and the headlines, it was arguably Mohamed Diame who deserved the man of the match accolade.
The attacking midfielder put in a performance packed with pace, commitment, quality, running with the ball, and an end product – the word ‘revelation’ is used far too often in football but this was definitely applicable in Diame’s case on Saturday, as Newcastle fans had never seen anything close to this previously.
Asked about the upcoming transfer window before Saturday, Rafa Benitez stated that they had identified one position they definitely want to try and buy somebody to play. Most fans appeared to take this as an obvious pointing towards the failure of either Diame or Perez to impress in the role behind Dwight Gayle.
Whatever the reason for the Senegalese international suddenly stepping up every area of his game, after the game Rafa has been keen to say that Diame has been too quick to point out his own shortcomings this season.
(Mohamed Diame having said this in October, amongst other honest interviews:
“When Rafa Benitez called me, he called me for more than I am giving at the moment.
“I am still working hard, that’s why I think I am still in the team, but need to give more offensively.”)
The United boss now stating that despite playing in a role high up the pitch, it isn’t necessarily about scoring goals for Diame, with hard work just as important.
Whatever Rafa said, it certainly worked, and the problem with Mohamed Diame hadn’t just been that he wasn’t scoring goals – you also struggle to remember him creating any/many chances. Against Birmingham he played a pivotal role in two of them.
In addition, his workrate was definitely a major step up from recent games, whilst the quality on the ball…was definitely a ‘revelation’.
Rafa Benitez in Mohamed Diame:
“I said to him (Mohamed Diame) he was too honest when he said about him sleeping too much since he has been here.
“Sometimes players, media Press and fans think the players have to score goals – but sometimes it’s just about working hard and getting to the level that you know they have.”
Rafa Benitez on Dwight Gayle:
“Hopefully (Gayle can get to 30 goals) – but I think that you have to talk about how difficult this (in the Championship) is.
“If they know who the top scorer is, then maybe they will be more aware (Gayle’s threat) and it will be more difficult for him.
“We just have to keep making and creating chances, he can play maybe even more games if you want to push him but why take risks if you’ve got the players to bring on?
“In Dwight’s case, with the kind of player he is, his movement makes him different to the other strikers.
“Hopefully he can score lots of goals in the Championship and then we can think about the Premier League.”