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Ayoze Perez is dividing opinion amongst Newcastle United fans

3 years ago

Two articles about Ayoze Perez in the Chronicle prompted me to write this.

The first was presented as an article and which turned out to be a big long quote from Rafa praising Ayoze Perez.

The second was probably the most inaccurate thing I have ever read on something Newcastle United related. I think even those who are big Perez fans would have to laugh at some of the comments in there which described 4 goals/3 assists (3 goals and 1 assist in Premier League) in 28 games this season as ‘tidy’, Perez himself as a real physical presence in the air, ‘flair and pace’ and of course ‘Mr Reliable and Consistent’…

If you don’t believe me, I would encourage anyone to have read. They really did say that.

The point being is that you rarely find fans who have the exact same views when it comes to Ayoze Perez.

Some think he’s rubbish. Most think he’s alright, even though he frustrates the hell out of them. Some think he’s great.

What most of us can agree on is that booing any player who gives his all in a Newcastle shirt is bang out of order. In truth, if you are booing a player who is trying his best then how would you feel as a fan, if you pulled on the shirt in front of 52,000, tried your best, and they all gave you sh.. for it?

In his first season at the club it looked like we had unearthed a real gem in Perez. I remember being at a game away to Spurs in which he was fantastic all game and then popped up with a wonderful winner. A few weeks later I think, he scored another great goal in an away win at West Brom. This was the only time in his Newcastle career that he played as the lone centre forward. It may have been five years ago but I think this was the best period of his career (36 league games, 7 goals).

He was a young lad who certainly had potential.

The following season Perez was anonymous and largely terrible as Newcastle went down. However, it is fair to say that almost all Newcastle players were terrible during this season, Perez no different to any of his teammates (34 league games, 6 goals).

His year in the Championship under Benitez was the biggest disappointment for me. Perez rarely turned up, especially away from home he was non-existent. It was expected that he would be a lot better in a division below but it wasn’t the case, with Rafa often favouring Diame in the no 10 position. For the most part, Perez looked like he was interested when the team was playing well but wasn’t to be seen when the going got tough (36 league games, 9 goals).

Last season was certainly a case of two halves for Perez.

In the first half of the season he was again non-existent (with one goal in the first half of the season) but then an almost Mo Diame like turn of form in the new year saw him score some big goals away to Stoke and home to Huddersfield. On top of this there was a man of the match performance away to Leicester which included one of my favourite away day goals at the King Power (36 league games, 8 goals).

As mentioned, seven of those eight came in the new year. There are a few Perez fans who have said that without his goals Newcastle would have gone down. Actually, if you take away Perez goals from the campaign that would leave Newcastle nine points worse off. They stayed up by 11 points, so theoretically would still have stayed up without the Perez goals.

The second player whose goals were ‘valuable’ was Jamaal Lascelles who, if you take away his goals, Newcastle would have been five points worse off. So what I think this suggests is that the whole ‘oh take away his goals argument’ does not really work – especially when your top scorer only scores 8 goals. It is not like you are taking a 15 or 20 (or even 10) goal striker out of the team is it?

This season is Perez’ fifth at the club and I think he has been largely disappointing again. Whether you like it or not, Perez gets a game every week because there is nobody else to take his place. He has started 22 PL games (plus three sub appearances) and has scored three goals.

(A small sample of what Newcastle fans had to say…)

In summary, what I think I can suggest is that Perez has been at Newcastle for five seasons and in truth played in four very very poor sides and a Championship side. He had a promising first season and a purple patch at the end of last season. Aside from that, at best, he has been an average player in a bad team.

Rafa Benitez has been staunchly defensive of Perez when asked about this in the press. Of course, this is no surprise as Benitez is unlikely to say anything negative about his players publicly. However, there is absolutely no doubt that Benitez thinks of Perez as being key to the way he wants his Newcastle side to play. With Benitez insistent on only playing one up front, he places a lot of trust in his no.10 and that man is usually Perez.

Rafa has shown time and time again that he is not afraid to drop big players at big moments, yet he continues to stick with Perez, which perhaps says a lot about how much he rates him. So yes of course there are lots of us who have issues with him, but at the end of the day he tries his best and Rafa rates him so that should be enough for most of us. No excuses for anyone out there who boos him.

With the arrival of Almiron, there will be more pressure on Perez to keep his place in the team. Up until now, due to the wafer thin options available in his position, he hasn’t had to worry too much about that.

If there is one area in which Almiron will represent a big improvement, it is the turnover between defence and attack. Where Newcastle are really lacking, and have been since Hatem Ben Arfa, is having that dynamic player who can receive the ball in the pocket, and then turn away with blistering pace to set you on the attack.

Of course many people use the £1.5 million transfer fee as a way to say he is doing really well when you consider what we paid for him but I don’t really see how a transfer fee is relevant when discussing whether someone is playing well. Was Demba Ba extra good because we got him on a free? Not really. If Peter Lovenkrands was signed for £10 million would we have thought of him differently? Again, probably not. I like to think Newcastle fans judge players solely on three things: performance, attitude and application to the shirt.

For me, I don’t think you can question that Perez doesn’t try his best. Like any of the players in this team, they always seem to give their all and it will just come down to whether they are good enough in the end. However, if Perez lets himself down in any area it is his antics on the field. On many occasion he spends more time rolling around, flinging his arms in the air or complaining to the referee, than really contributing to the football match he is taking part in.

Players like this are common nowadays, and we have had our fair share down the years… thinking about the likes of Emre or Gutierrez. However, although those players were notorious for trying to win free kicks, and ‘conning the ref’ – they invariably got up and got on with it.

There was none of this sticking their fingers in their ears nonsense which I think is incredibly disrespectful towards fans. Those two aforementioned players were world cup stars who had played at the highest level of elite football. If Perez is to get to that stage, and in turn, win over the doubters, then I think this is the main thing he will need to cut out of his game.

Lastly, just to make sure I wasn’t talking complete waffle I put a twitter poll out before posting this article. I asked what fans’ opinions of Perez are with four options;

Great, he is a key player (14%)

Decent but we need better (70%)

Not good enough (14%)

Waste of space (2%)

There were 698 votes cast which I think is a decent number (although I admit twitter is not always representative of the overall NUFC fanbase).

One thing is for sure though, regardless of a fan’s opinions on certain players… as long as they are trying their best, then on a match day, don’t boo them, get behind them!

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn


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