I think one thing was certainly clear at Goodison Park on Monday night, the partnership of Islam Slimani and Ayoze Perez never looked like clicking.

It was subsequently no surprise that when I saw the Newcastle v Everton player ratings on The Mag, the fans gave the two strikers the joint lowest mark of all the starting eleven.

The only memorable moment of them combining, was for all the wrong reasons.

With the score still goalless, it was Kenedy who created a golden chance for Newcastle to take the lead, charging down Jordan Pickford’s attempted clearance.

The ball fell kindly at the feet of Ayoze Perez but with Islam Slimani standing unmarked on the edge of the box and the Spaniard needing to only slide a simple pass into his path, instead he somehow hit it too hard and off target. A goal kick instead of a simple chance to take the lead and very likely win the game from there.

Monday’s match was rubbish really, disappointing result against old Fat Head, made all the worse because Newcastle never had a proper go.

However, Newcastle fans pretty philosophical about it all despite four wins in a row beforehand, the supporters understanding that it would be daft to think this team was the finished article. So even if Rafa had gone a bit more open/attacking, still no guarantee of a better result/performance.

With thoughts turning to Saturday and West Brom, I have been surprised at some of the comments from Newcastle supporters when it comes to the likely team.

The main topic being whether Islam Slimani should get another start…

Not surprisingly he looked a little bit rusty and not totally match fit, the last time he started a game was New Year’s Day and since a sub appearance on 16 January he has been out injured and only played 42 minutes as a sub for Newcastle (as well as a brief sub appearance for Algeria). Islam Slimani needs more games, not less!

There are only four matches of the season and if we aren’t going him a start against West Brom at home to see what he can do, then he might as well head off back to Leicester now. If there is even minimal interest in potentially looking at Slimani as a possibility to buy this summer, then we he has to play.

At Everton, the biggest problem was that the Algerian is not the quickest and Ayoze Perez has even less pace, That lack of pace and mobility meant that the Everton defence could push up and there was so little space for Newcastle and Shelvey in particular to play in. It also meant United struggled to get higher up the pitch on the wings, so not a single decent cross going in for the powerful loan forward.

It was no surprise then, that when Dwight Gayle came on for the final 25 minutes, Newcastle suddenly looked far more of a threat. Jagielka and Keane went from looking totally comfortable to now be struggling with Gayle’s pace and mobility.

Free-kicks were won and Keane was booked, indeed he should have been sent off, the clueless referee Madley bottling the decision when it was an obvious second yellow. Ironically, Gayle’s movement/pace helped Newcastle get further up the pitch, including on the wings, meaning that suddenly we also had a few decent crosses coming in…with no Islam Slimani on the pitch.

No denying that Dwight Gayle should have scored more this season, I reckon four or five more on chances that have come his way, but he does work hard for the team and nobody can deny, he is the only striker with pace that we have at the minute.

Personally, I don’t rate Ayoze Perez that highly, I think he is a squad player at best and his three seasons in the Premier League have shown that he doesn’t get enough goals and assists (5 goals and 5 assists this season, 6 goals and 2 assists in 2015/16, 7 goals and 0 assists in 2014/15), or gets involved enough, to justify starting every week.

Like the rest of the team he has done ok the last couple of months and hit one of the little purple patches we have seen occasionally in the past, scoring three games in a row. Happy enough if he stays next season as a squad player but we definitely need more from somebody playing as one of the front pair, so time to start planning for next season.

I think Islam Slimani and Dwight Gayle have to be given a chance together on Saturday, no reason why Gayle can’t be buzzing around his teammate when Newcastle have possession, then drop a little deeper to help defend from the front when West Brom have the ball.

When I have watched Slimani in the past, he’s a clever player and I think as well as potentially scoring himself, he can bring out the best on Gayle. The Leicester man is capable of clever lay-offs and putting in little through balls to exploit Gayle’s pace.

As we saw at Everton, whilst Diame and Shelvey have been excellent in recent times, neither of them are going to make runs beyond the strikers, so in the absence of a central midfielder who is able to do that, it makes it even more imperative that you have Gayle on the pitch.

Newcastle are safe now and so no need to play too safe in the remaining matches, plus I think we have far more chance of playing well against the Baggies if we take the game to them and have that threat of Gayle shifting them about and maybe getting in behind, with Islam Slimani also starting to give them another goalscorer to worry about.

Naturally, no disaster of course if Rafa doesn’t go with this front pairing but I’d love to see him give it a try.

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  • Leazes.


    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      Rafa won`t drop Perez, one of the chosen sons but it may be worth a go.

      • Leazes.

        I doubt Slimani is the answer, I don’t see anything significantly different to Mitrovic. He throws himself into the frey sure, but there you have it from this crop of forwards …… lots of effort but if Benitez is going for a forward then it has to be a step above this.

        This writer is planning for the future with the same squad, he’s happy with this level…. I’m not! It doesn’t matter how you juggle them its a muchness of quality. They might work against a cannon-fodder club like West Brom and utterly fail against spuds and chelsea so what does a limited trial prove?

        • Andy Mac


          • Leazes.


          • Coach Clagnut

            Heart Attack In A Tin.

        • Ram Kishore

          Leazes I think he isn’t planning for next season but for West brom match

  • Paul Patterson

    Waste of conversation. We play one up front. ‘he might as well head off back to Leicester now’- should have left it there..

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      It has all the makings of another krap game

  • Alex

    Slimani isn’t the answer, so little point in giving him game time.

    Match fit or not, what he failed to do on Monday was to anticipate any through-balls or knock-ons. At his age, you don’t need fitness to have a quick brain to read the game.

    There’s certainly been worse forwards wear the shirt, but Slimani shouldn’t be anywhere near our summer shopping list.

    • Andy Mac

      Agreed Slimani isnt the answer and at 29 was he ever likely to be ?

    • Jezza

      Slimani won’t be on the club’s summer shopping list simply because he would cost a fee, It’s loans and free transfers from now on.

  • steveS100

    Let me get this right. We win 4 in a row (including Arsenal and Leicester), starting with Gayle and Perez and scoring 8 goals of which Perez nets 3. We swap Gayle for Slimani and lose, failing to score, and it’s Perez that is the problem.

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      he was the problem the other night ok, he was well off his game

      • steveS100

        As was Slimani (although we don’t really know if that ‘IS’ his game). If you just want to play Slimani as some sort of trial then it would be with Perez (who at least we know HAS a game). Playing Gayle out of position is hardly going to do him or Slimani any favours. Personally I’d be looking elsewhere than 29 yr old Slimani for a striker, especially if it means shelling out £15m+.

        • Andy Mac

          Ouch Leicester must be checking the fine small print on the Algerians contract ?

      • ghostrider

        Perez wasn’t the problem.

  • GlasgowMag

    Why drop Perez Slimani was hopeless all night!! Couldn’t hold the ball up and his 1st touch was awful at least Perez brings other players into play. Start with Perez and Gayle for me and bring Slimani on for the last 20-30mins same as Arsenal game!!

  • pedrodelgardo

    Rafa can clearly learn alot from your tactical understanding, I’m so glad you are both black and white.

  • Monkseaton Magpies

    If Gayle had started probably would have won as when he came on it was one way traffic. Slimani had a very poor game Gayle did more in five minutes when coming on and Perez was second best player.

    • Andy Mac

      Very rarely do I agree with you but I have to ask whatever happened to “If it aint broke dont fix it” ?

      Is Slimani another of Rafa’s men who need to be played at any cost ? Like our friends Joselu, Sels and Manquillo ?

      • Stephen Paylor

        When has Manquillo played since Dummett has come back from injury?

        • Andy Mac

          When he pushed out Yedlin at RB ?

        • mentalman

          he’s still somehow getting on the bench

      • Jezza

        Slimani is definitely not Rafa’s man. Rafa wanted to buy Jorgensen but Ashley wouldn’t dip into the profits to finance that deal. Rafa then lowered his sights to a loan deal for Daniel Sturridge but still Ashley wouldn’t sanction the loan fee and wages and instead with the help of Charnley brought in an injured Slimani on a pay per play deal.

        • Mike

          thank goodness we didnt get Sturridge he was crocked straight away

  • Rich Lawson

    Agree ! Slimani is here till the end of the season and must surely improve with more game time. A big bloke who can muscle/annoy a defence and a wee nippy guy to do the running and latch on to the knock downs, (Davies/Robson) and wingers to bang the crosses in, do it ! West Brom have picked up under Moore with good results against Man U n Liverpool and are no longer a Pardew team there for the taking. If we really are safe then try some different combinations to explore other options while we have the players or a chance to buy them and give the home crowd some attacking football to cheer from the start ?

  • TheFatController

    Rafa knows what he wants, he has a style of play he fits players into it and keeps coaching them til they iron out mistakes and improve.

    That’s why when most were berating him for sticking in Diame, Dummett and Lejeune he knew they could do the jobs he wanted with some work on the training field.

    However, I’m sure we’re all well aware that up front, he knows he doesn’t have what he would consider an ideal fit, either in playing style or ability.

    He knows what Gayle can and cannot do, also Perez, but not slimani. Thus I expect him, now we’re safe, to see what slimani brings. He may know he won’t sign slimani, but probably wants to see what a big target man can bring to the team. One better than Joselu, that is…

    • Andy Mac

      The reality is, in a 4-2-3-1 system, its not necessarily a big man up front that always does the job. Sure the formation can accommodate a target man – who’ll hold up the ball and lay it off for the oncoming midfielders – or it could also be an ideal platform for a quicker, more dynamic striker capable of running on to balls and finishing chances with clinical precision.

      Sadly we dont seem to have either of those players right now ?

  • Chris

    Completely agreed!

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    The Ronnie is reporting that Fatso will give the Gaffa funds & a new contract in the summer,
    Rafa better cover all the bases or the Pig will pull a stroke & shaft him again.
    🐖 🐖 🐖

    • Jezza

      More false promises. Looks like they’re just trying to cover themselves for when Rafa finally walks this summer.

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        All funds available, then they`ll fiddle the books to make it look like the tills empty

      • Desree

        There are no funds available.

        • Jezza

          There are plenty funds, make no mistake about that. The problem is those funds are all earmarked for Ashley’s pocket.

          • Desree

            As I said Jezza ‘funds available’ and ‘can have every penny generated by sales’ are politicians lines. The only time I will beliebe we will spend is when Ashley starts talking about horse and carts!

            NUFC is the classic private equity play. You strangle growth of the business because profits get stripped out every year by the owners.

            Funds available means selling before buying or loan deals.

  • ghostrider

    What the hell does it take to get a player match fit?
    How many months of training and fitness, then game time does it need for a player to be deemed 90 plus minute match worthy?

    Excuses get made for underperforming players and I’d buy into it if they had a torn hamstring or broken ankle or something…but no way do I buy into the unfit or not match fit garbage after months of training and what not.

    Whatever is going on in football these days, something just isn’t quite legit in many instances with it.

    Players with bad backs (Merino) and players bought but played for 10 minutes and lost somewhere in the canteen.
    This Slimani is taking the place of a seasoned player and if he does well he’ll be hailed as some kind of top notch hero. If he fails to do what people were teased into thinking then excuses are immediately made for why it’s not quite working.

    Not quite fit. Pfffffft.

    • gallowgate26

      It takes most players 5-6 games of real, top level, competitive games. He hasn’t had that, only about a game and a half. No training ground environment can fully replicate it…

      • ghostrider

        It seems many other players can do it.

  • thewildchimp

    It’s actually simple. Perez is the “first touch” type of player. He has to pass it, then run into empty space for a double. Playing with target-men like Slimani or Mitro can work for him only at the edge of the box, not in the field. Diame was the opposite, he waited for the layoff to have a blast at the goal. That’s why Mit-Mo and Gay-Per pairings worked for us in the Championship and Mi-P and G-Mo didn’t.

  • gallowgate26

    I don’t think Gayle has much more pace than Slimani. He’s just more mobile, more of the time. Big difference between that and saying that he has more pace than Slimani. He hasn’t.

    • gallowgate26

      For an example of what I mean, see the ocassion when Slimani took the ball down the wing past the full back against Arsenal, not the one where the defender slips over, the other one.

  • Paul Busby

    I got absolutely slammed on Reddit for suggesting Slimani as a false 9 or part of a traditional 2 up front with Gayle would be the best fit…

  • Desree

    Sounds like a good idea. Not something we have seen since shearer/owen or Shearer/bellamy.

    Gayle could get you 15 EPL goals a season in that role. Slimani seems a smart enough player to make it work too.

    • Desree

      Or Mitrovic, I hear he has done okay at Fulham.

      • Jezza

        It’s all academic. Neither Slimani or Mitrovic will be at Newcastle next season.

        • Desree

          It is a disgrace the way Mitrovic has been treated.

          • Geordiegiants

            No it’s not. He isn’t good/sharp enough for the way Rafa plays that’s all.