Rafa Benitez has repeatedly said that he doesn’t see playing two strikers as the right call at Newcastle United, preferring instead to play one out and out striker (ideally Dwight Gayle) and a number 10.
The idea being that the number 10 can make it a five man midfield when defending, as well as the primary job of being the lynchpin for linking defence/midfield and attack.
It is ironic that Newcastle United produced a player who was the best number 10 ever, long before it ever became fashionable in English football.
In his first spell at St James Park it is fair to say Peter Beardsley just basically tried to do everything!
Non-stop running, dribbling, passing, goals, and also his trademark chasing hopeless causes before sliding and hooking his foot around the opponent with the ball, winning it cleanly and then scampering back up the other end of the pitch with it.
However, it was 1986 when our very own Peter Beardsley became recognised in that number 10 role, though he still didn’t get the true appreciation from the media at the time, as they couldn’t really comprehend a team without two ‘proper’ strikers.
Getting his chance at last, Beardsley performed brilliantly playing with Gary Lineker at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, the centre-forward regularly crediting the Geordie as being largely responsible for his success at international level.
Newcastle fans had to wait a few more years to see it in the flesh once again, Kevin Keegan bringing Beardsley back to St James Park and he went on to brilliantly perform the role behind Andy Cole, then Les Ferdinand. Two of the greatest strike partnerships Newcastle fans have ever seen.
However, Peter Beardsley had lost none of his workrate ethic either, as well as setting chance after chance up for Cole and Ferdinand, he was always running here, there and everywhere when United didn’t have the ball.
The years that have followed haven’t been kind to Newcastle, particularly when it comes to finding a number 10.
In the late 90s it became a bit of a running joke because it was the much sought after position, with players such as Silvio Maric complaining because that was where he wanted to play, rather than as a winger etc.
The attraction for many who didn’t share Beardsley’s work ethic, was that the number 10 position allowed them to have a free role, which involved no great expectation for goals because they weren’t out and out strikers, whilst at the same time they thought they could shirk the defensive obligations because the position wasn’t an out and out midfield one.
This season we have seen Mohamed Diame and Ayoze Perez sharing this number 10 role and fair to say it has been easily Newcastle’s biggest weakness.
Rafa Benitez has switched between the pair of them throughout and fair to say that he appears to make his choice with no great expectation, as the pair of them more often than not contribute little.
Altogether this season, the pair of them have made a combined 41 Championship starts and came off the bench 18 times between them, in total scoring nine goals and seven assists between them in the league.
In general, Perez has offered a little bit going forward but doesn’t seem to like heading back the other way, whilst Diame is the opposite, doing ok defensively but almost nothing going forward.
I don’t speak to any Newcastle fans who see either of them as a Premier League starter next season if promoted, with neither convincing in the role in the second tier.
In this latest interview, Ayoze Perez talks of hoping for a call-up for his country, well we can all have our dreams can’t we…
However, the reality is that if Newcastle do get up into the Premier League, this number 10 role is surely the biggest signing Rafa Benitez will have to make.
Peter Beardsley, if only.
Ayoze Perez talking to the Chronicle:
“I like the number 10 role because I have some freedom.
“By that, I mean I can be involved with the ball, I can push and be a second striker and then drop deep or out wide.
“It’s good for me to have that freedom, it makes me feel more comfortable out on the pitch.
“I’ve been enjoying this position.
“At the minute I just wish and want to get back to the Premier League, then playing in the Premier League you will get more chances to grow and maybe get a call from the national team.
“For now the main thing is to get back to the Premier League, and that’s it, but it (call-up for Spain) is obviously something I dream of.”
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