Having played all his English club football in the Premier League, apart from last season when scoring 10 from midfield in the Championship for promoted Hull, the signing of Mohamed Diame looked a masterstroke for Rafa Benitez.
Fair to say though that alongside Aleksandar Mitrovic, it is Diame’s place in the team that provoke amongst debate amongst supporters.
Mohamed Diame admitted recently that he felt lucky to still be getting a game, the player saying that his lack of goals and assists was bothering him and that he felt he was only clinging onto a first team place through sheer hard work.
Rafa Benitez though had insisted that he sees the role Mohamed Diame plays as key, needing a second striker/attacking midfielder in the team to help control games, rather than playing two out and out strikers.
Ayoze Perez scoring two and making another against Ipswich on Saturday, had upped the pressure on Mohamed Diame – but the player says Rafa Benitez never lost faith in him.
Diame says that Rafa simply told him to ‘Keep going, keep working’ and that the ‘most important thing is to keep getting the chances and the goals will come’.
Against Preston, Mohamed Diame scored two quality goals and these sandwiched a missed open goal, but the player was more than happy to get his first goals since May, when he scored in the Wembley play-off to send Hull City into the Premier League.
The midfielder also had encouraging words for fellow attacking threat Aleksandar Mitrovic who also scored two confidence boosting goals.
The big question is who will Rafa Benitez choose this Saturday at Preston…
“Happy – very happy. I have been chasing a goal since my Wembley goal (play-off win with Hull in May) – I was so happy that I got these goals.
“Not easy to have confidence when you’re not scoring goals or not even hitting the target sometimes – I missed one tonight, an easy one, but I’m happy to have scored two and I hope that that will continue.
“When you are a football player and you’re playing forward, you know you need to score goals or at least give assists, so of course mentally, it’s tough, it’s hard.
“But you need to keep going, keep working, and that’s what the manager told me. The most important thing is to keep getting the chances and the goals will come. Tonight, I’ve scored two so I’m happy.
“There had been some great work from Mitro – he did a great job tonight – and I hope we’re just going stay like this and keep going.
“This team has a great spirit and mentality. We have a lot of players and a big squad, but I think the staff are managing the players well to keep everyone focussed. I think we just need to keep going.
“Every single game we go out to win it, and the team are working well.
“I’m always happy to be on the pitch and when we got the ball, unfortunately for Preston they’d had a red card, so it was easier for us.
“But it’s going to be a different game on Saturday. We need to be ready, be prepared, because they will start 11 against 11 and they will be stronger than tonight. We need to stay focussed and be ready.”