In search of another Nobby Solano
The presence of Peru at the World Cup has brought back fond memories of Nobby Solano from his days at Newcastle.
With his combination of classy set-piece wizardry and clever playmaking, he was one of my favourite players of the Robson era.
But then I’ve struggled to remember any wingers who have been able to match his performances in the black and white stripes since he left…
Matt Ritchie has made some important contributions, with 15 goals and 12 assists over the past two years.
Even so, the majority of those came in the Championship and his form was poor until that crucial goal against Manchester United this past season.
The only other serious contender who springs to mind is Hatem Ben Arfa but therein lies a squandered talent.
Pardew was too short-sighted to understand where he fitted in the team and, after a few years of dancing around defenders, the Frenchman began to look increasingly unfit. His expert dribbling stopped being with the ball and instead became over his evening meals.
Of the rest, Charles N’Zogbia showed flashes of talent amidst plenty of mediocrity, and James Milner’s last six months at St James Park were very promising until Ashley sold him to Aston Villa from under Keegan’s feet – without a replacement lined up (the first of many such stories).
It is no mystery, therefore, that quality delivery into the strikers from wide positions has been a consistent deficiency of Newcastle’s play for the past decade. In their defence, conventional wingers are now tactically out of fashion and most teams’ width comes from wing-backs.
Nevertheless, there is still a place for wingers of Solano’s ilk in the modern game. Once Bobby Robson was able to pair the Peruvian on the right with Lauren Robert on the left, there was no shortage of creativity in midfield. It was the defining characteristic of the team and gave plenty of quality deliveries into the Shearer/Bellamy strikeforce.
Don’t worry, I’m fully aware that we aren’t likely to replicate the acquisition of players with such finesse under the current ownership regime, but that isn’t going to stop me celebrating those great memories of Nobby curling the ball into the bottom corner against Everton, or sending us top of the league at Christmas on a snow-lined pitch in Leeds.
With Peru already knocked out of the World Cup, it looks like they miss Nobby Solano too.
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