When Robert Lee arrived at Newcastle from Charlton he was a right sided midfield player, not blessed with electric pace or step overs, in fact you could say that his career to that point was fairly average.
What happened to ‘General Lee’ was that a manager with vision saw that he could offer so much more, that because he understood the game, played with courage and was outstandingly fit – that he could not only play through the middle, but he could be one of the top performers in the Premier League doing just that, and go on to be capped for his country.
When Moussa Sissoko arrived at Newcastle United from Toulouse he was a central, attacking midfield player with immense body strength, a good touch, plenty of pace and fantastic stamina. Here was a real athlete, a man who by his own admission idolised Patrick Vieira, all the dots were there for someone to connect, for him to become the dominant force in the Newcastle engine room in the same way as his hero, or Toure at Manchester City, but that didn’t happen.
Instead it seems that successive coaches have chosen to, rather than coach and encourage his natural ability, convince him that he is a right sided midfield player without a trick to his name.
Amazingly, just as Keegan turned Rob Lee into something resembling Newcastle’s own Bryan Robson, it appears that Pardew and those who have followed have managed to turn our Patrick Vieira into Gabriel Obertan.
Now I know that Sissoko can deliver a good cross, so could Alan Shearer, but asking him to do just that is robbing him of so much more, and damages the team generally.
What would we give now to have a dominant powerhouse of a midfield player, a man who’s very presence on the pitch makes the opposition know that they are in for a game in the way that Vieira, Toure and Roy Keane did, Sissoko should have been that very player!
What Sissoko is now is still a talented footballer, but an uninterested footballer who’s natural abilities are not used by the team, as time after time he is pushed out wide.
We have other players who could do that job, we have wingers, we even have other central midfield players or full backs who are probably better suited to that role than Sissoko. So good has the job been in convincing the world that Sissoko is a wide player, that even his national coach has jumped on the bandwagon, and some would argue that is the only reason that he still gets a game for his country.
For the sake of Newcastle, for the sake of Sissoko and in the name of common sense, we need to sit the lad down, stick on the ‘Best Of Vieira’ DVD and tell him to go out and do exactly what he sees.
If he can and if he does, then Newcastle will be a much better equipped side, and Sissoko himself might find that he can finally look at getting his much talked about move to a Champions League club for big money.
Or we can carry on as we are and watch his talent and value diminish as fast as our points total, until we flog him to someone like Stoke for £4m in the off season and watch him flourish.
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