I still kept the faith
When I answered some questions for The Mag before the first game of the season, I was asked which players I thought Newcastle still needed to get rid of before the transfer window shut.
Yoan Gouffran, while maybe on the lists of some fans, was not someone I wanted to see the back of.
I said that I had a feeling he might do quite well in this division and so far so good. ‘Gouff’ has taken to the Championship like a duck to water. Is this merely the Frenchmen finding his level, or is he the latest player to experience a ‘Rafa revitalisation’?
Most of us would probably agree that Gouffran has looked like one of our better players so far this season, topped off with a perfect volley in the win over Derby. He was my man-of-the-match in the Brighton game, then after another fine performance and goal in Tuesday’s League Cup win, is starting to look like one of Rafa’s key charges. Amidst the signing of Atsu and more talk of a rotation policy, I am almost certain he will start at Villa on Saturday, and get a chance to continue his good form.
In reality, the mini-recovery of the winger should not come as too much of a surprise. If nothing else he has always worked hard and been prepared to cover ground in his years at the Toon. Benitez seems to be moulding more tactical awareness into his game, throw in the extra bit of confidence that I’m sure going up against championship defenders gives a relegated player…and we actually have a very good player on our hands.
His defensive work has always in my opinion been the strongest part of his game, unusual for a winger, but in a similar way this was also Jonas’ strongest attribute. I don’t put Gouffran on a par with Gutiérrez but they do have similar styles.
I don’t agree with putting Paul Dummett in the team and probably never will do, I just don’t see him as anywhere near good enough to play for Newcastle United. Having said that, he will undoubtedly look a better player with a wide player in front who can actually track back and help him, not leaving him exposed. Gouffran will undoubtedly do this, and I think this is why Benitez likes him.
If he can keep scoring the type of goals we saw both at Derby and then on Tuesday at the Gallowgate End, then well that’s a bonus.
In Autumn 2013, the former Bordeaux man hit a great run of form, before tailing off. Fresh from losing a derby (of course) we belatedly kick-started our season with a brilliant 2-0 win over Chelsea at SJP. Gouffran scored the opener, a goal which triggered a run of him scoring in five straight home games for the club. The first man to do this since someone called Shearer.
He was one of the first names on Alan Pardew’s teamsheet and justifiably so. He even got a terrace chant.
Yet it didn’t last and no other player’s form tailed off more dramatically after the sale of Yohan Cabaye in January 2014, than Yoan Gouffran. By the end of that season he looked a shadow of his former self.
He has struggled for a consistent run of form ever since, barely featuring last season under McClaren. Hopefully this time Rafa can help him maintain this good early season form rather than tailing off once again.
We may have a big squad with some good options in most positions, now we have a proper manager doing the business, but few will be as key as him if he can keep his performance level as high as it has been recently. Who knows, by the end of the season the name of Gouffran may once again be heard from the Gallowgate End.
In the short-term, another belter on Saturday to shut Villa up, would really hit the spot.
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