Matt Ritchie finds perfect position just as he is about to turn 30
Matt Ritchie is loving the current form of Newcastle United.
Four Premier League home wins in a row and if it hadn’t been for those cruel late goals at Spurs and Wolves, Newcastle could have potentially gone ninth in the table if winning at West Ham on Saturday.
However, it is all about safety first and Matt Ritchie just wants to reach 40 points as soon as possible, then ‘kick on from there.’
With a surplus of quality at centre-back, it was a no-brainer for Rafa Benitez to play three of them.
Whilst wing-back is undoubtedly ideal for Yedlin on the left, Paul Dummett is obviously not an ideal fit in this kind of set-up on the left.
With Kenedy unreliable and funds not forthcoming in January to buy a left wing-back [Barreca looks a case of being offered by the club as a loan option and better than nothing in Rafa’s eyes], so a massive boost for the manager to find that he had the ideal person all along, already at the club.
A bit like the team overall, Matt Ritchie has really grown into the position/formation. Maybe not seeing it as ideal at first he is now thriving.
Set to turn 30 this year maybe he has now find his ideal position as a Premier League player.
With Hayden and Longstaff giving the team more legs in the middle of the pitch it has gradually given Matt Ritchie more license to get forward from his more defensive position. Then the last couple of games, the pace and threat of Almiron has massively added to that.
It was this time of year when Rafa Benitez decided on a first eleven and stuck with them, going on a great run to early safety and a tenth place finish.
It looks like more of the same this time with Matt Ritchie one of the first names on the team sheet, at left wing-back.
Matt Ritchie speaking to the official club site:
“It’s the business end of the season and since the break we had in Spain, we’ve had two wins and I think you can see from the way we moved the ball throughout the game – especially in the first half [against Burnley] , where I thought we were brilliant – that confidence is flowing through the team now.
“We knew we had this quality and it was about having the confidence to play and play in the right areas.
“With the whole squad now, you can see there’s competition for places and the level of performance has definitely been raised.
“But still, it’s small margins.
“Yes, we’ve been on the right end of four results at home, but these games can easily go either way.
“Even tonight, Fabi [Schar] scored a screamer, you go 1-0 up and suddenly the game turns in your favour. You get the second and it’s all about seeing the game out, and I think we did that really well.
“Hopefully we can continue to perform to the level we are.
“I think the performances of late have been fantastic. Tottenham away, we were so unlucky, and the performance was fantastic. Wolves away after that, it was another great performance and we were really unfortunate on the night not to take three points.
and we need to make sure we continue to hit that standard, and try to raise it if we can.
“But 100 per cent, there’s certainly not going to be any complacency.
“First and foremost, the manager won’t let that happen, but as a group, the players know that we need to get to 40 points. Hopefully that’ll be a safe zone and we can kick on from there. We’ll certainly be going into the West Ham game with a desire to continue to win games because we know that the job’s not done yet.
“He’s been fantastic, Longy [Sean Longstaff]. First and foremost, as a person. Everyone’s giving him plaudits for his football – that goes without saying. But as a lad, he’s fantastic.
“Since he’s come into the group, he’s stepped in like he’s been here for years. He plays with such maturity. He’s so calm, and you could probably see from the way we celebrated with him that everyone’s so happy for him. But as I say, the most important thing is that he’s a fantastic lad.”
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