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Opinion

If Newcastle United had four players like him there’s no way we would go down

1 year ago
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With 4 Matts we’d be a whole lot Ritchier.

Well, we have won a game now. Hopefully with a couple of signings, Newcastle United can push on and have a comfortable season.

Even without any more signings I’m confident we’ve got enough to avoid relegation, providing we keep Benitez. If he leaves, we’ll implode and I think it’ll be a real challenge staying in the division.

Fair play to the support the fans showed him on Saturday. It’s important to make him want to stay for us, as Mike Ashley seems set on ruining the wonderful foundations he’s accidentally made for us yet again.

The team were great on Saturday but there’s one man who, once again, donned his magic hat and ran the show. If we had four Matt Ritchies in midfield I don’t think there’d be any chance we’d go down.

I say four Ritchies as I’d leave Hayden in the holding/defensive midfield role. That’s the one part of midfield not quite as well suited for Matt Ritchie due to the amount of yellows he picks up for sloppy challenges. However, if I could have him (or more realistically a player of his ilk) on both wings, the number 10 role and the deep lying playmaker position I would.

I genuinely think he’s that good!

A lot of fans have stated that they believe that Ciaran Clark was the player of the season last year. I think it was Ritchie. Clark was brilliant, Gayle scored plenty of vital and varied goals, Hayden gave us stability and composure in midfield and Shelvey made us tick, but Ritchie was nothing short of heroic. He dragged us through some games and won us points on his own at times.

If you had to pick which is his strongest foot you’d say left (see his goal for Bournemouth vs Sunderland for evidence of this) but there is only a marginal difference between his left and right. Whether crossing or shooting he seems equally comfortable and this makes him unpredictable and difficult to contain. There’s no showing him onto his ‘weaker’ foot.

His cross on Saturday was a pin perfect delivery on his right. One of my favourite goals of last season was against Burton. That was a wonderful curling right foot strike to restore justice after his own penalty kick was disallowed in bizarre circumstances.

On top of this two footedness. he’s quick, both physically and mentally. He’s not got Yedlin’s natural raw pace but he’s fast enough to take a defender on and, more importantly, he’s sharp enough to read the game and gifted enough to take the right touch to give himself space and options. These attributes mean that he is equally comfortable on either wing.

His work rate has been rightly acclaimed since the West Ham game. The whole midfield worked their socks off but none more so than Ritchie. His relentless and tireless closing and chasing forced so many errors out of the opposition. The thing that brought so much praise for us on Saturday was that the whole team was doing this.

Matt Ritchie does it every week.

The positive attributes don’t end here; he’s also a great passer of the ball. Shelvey is undoubtedly the best passer in the team but Ritchie isn’t far off. He creates an abundance of opportunities with cross field passes and slick through balls. I think his movement and determination would actually make him better in that deep lying playmaker role than Jonjo.

It’s all fantasy of course, there is only one Matt Ritchie. The point I’m trying to make is that I think he could play in any of the key roles in midfield and could maybe be utilised in other positions if other players are forcing their way into the gaffer’s thoughts.

Aarons was fantastic in midweek against Forest and should have got on the pitch against West Ham, although he may have had a knock. Certainly going forward it’d be good to see Ritchie have an opportunity sitting off of the striker in the number 10 role and letting Aarons and Murphy get some chances this season.

One final thing, if I had my way I would make Matt Ritchie our captain.

I think Lascelles is going to struggle to keep his place once we’ve got a full roster of defenders fit and Shelvey doesn’t have the right temperament for the armband.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

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