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The player that takes my breath away…

6 years ago
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Like everyone else in the civilised world I’ve been wondering how exactly Newcastle have turned their horrific form into this scintillating run.

The dropping of ineffective workhorses such as Gouffran and Riviere in favour of exciting, hungry youngsters has helped.

I think the big difference between Newcastle now and the Newcastle through all of the rest of 2014 has been a much tighter defence. The standard stance for the Toon this calendar year has been concede a goal and capitulate. Game after game we’ve had to put up with it. But recently we don’t concede and even when we did against Spurs we resolutely fought to not concede any further and actually, unexpectedly fight back for the win.

The first factor in turning this around is the committed, courageous performance by all four of our main centre backs. When Taylor and Colo reformed their winning combination a lot of emphasis was placed on this being the turning point. Naturally, I was a bit nervous to see Williamson and Dummett being the pair that would have to grapple with Zamora and Austin. Another game passed, with another clean sheet and both lads did well.

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In fact I think centre back is Dummett’s stronger position as I’m not sure he can hack the pace against quicker wingers when he plays left back. One change that is definitely evident in our defenders is the courage element I mentioned earlier.

The first few games of this season were an absolute embarrassment with Willo and Colo shrieking like little girls in a playground when the mean boys kicked footballs at them, not blocking shots or charging them down. There’s been no sign of that in any of our defenders since the start of this extraordinary run.

Despite some very resolute performances individually and collectively by our defence, I think the real key to our clean sheets starts a little bit further up the pitch.

Our midfield over the last couple of months has been astonishing to watch. The two I want to pick out for special mention are Moussa Sissoko (watch yesterday’s winning goal here) and Jack Colback. We all know how good Sissoko is and now he’s in his natural position in the centre of midfield he has become an absolute powerhouse, more than capable of winning games. When he gets the ball and drives at teams it takes my breath away.

Again yesterday he was a beast. When he first sprang into our team with 3 goals in 2 tremendous performances I labelled him a young Yaya Toure. Change of positions and dips in team form have seen a less effective Moussa Sissoko but this season I’m seeing that resemblance once more.

He needs to add more goals to his game, and I think he’s fully capable of ten a season if the rest of the team is playing well, but he is such an old round wrecking ball of a man I can’t help but consider him my favourite player currently. He’s the heart of the team and I just pray he is ours to keep.

Jack Colback. I was as sceptical as any to see this man cross the divide and join his ‘boyhood’ team. I knew we needed a recruitment drive this summer and taking a Sunderland first teamer for free would not only bolster our squad but it would annoy the mackems too.

I, like many, considered him only to be a squad player that may do half a job if we had injuries. It turns out this man could be one of the signings of the season. He’s not a headline grabber like Sissoko and Perez but he’s just as important to our success. The quiet, unruffled way he goes about his business is superb. Game after game I am in awe of just how tidy a player he is. Not only will he charge shots down, go shoulder to shoulder with anyone and always stick a foot in, when on the ball he can turn out of danger and always find a simple, pressure relieving pass. I honestly believe Tiote is going to have his work cut out when he attempts to get back into this team and Anita seems light years away from it.

A lot can be said of the hard work and non-stop running up front of Perez, as well as performances of several others, but I think we have to attribute a lot of this change in form and new found resistance at the back to these two sturdy centre midfielders.

If Tiote can be filtered in alongside these two then this midfield will have even more bite and Sissoko even more freedom.

Bring on West Ham!

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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