Considering the fact that Newcastle United have been linked with players such as Olivier Giroud, Krzysztof Piątek and Emmanuel Dennis so far this month, you’d be forgiven in thinking that attack was a priority for the Magpies at this stage in the campaign.
With that in mind, a line from Luke Edwards on Twitter following the confirmation of Nabil Bentaleb’s loan arrival certainly looks interesting. According to the Daily Telegraph journalist, central midfield was the area in which Steve Bruce most wanted to strengthen most this month.
Agree with this, should be coming into his peak years and needs to get career back on track. Glad there is an option to buy too. As January signings go this feels like a solid one and CM was the position Bruce wanted to strengthen most. Finally replaces Diame too https://t.co/MqcpzEZMJk
— Luke Edwards (@LukeEdwardsTele) January 21, 2020
Well, as Bruce said himself following the win over Chelsea, the Magpies need to keep the ball better.
Indeed, they’ve had the lowest possession of any Premier League team this season and, as per WhoScored, just 24% of their attacking play has come through the middle. With that in mind, Bentaleb certainly looks a good bet, if he can get back to the sort of form he showed during his last full season playing regularly for Schalke, 2018-19.
Comparing him to what the likes of central midfielders Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff, the Algerian actually averaged more passes per game (36 to 33.6, 27.3 and 28.5) at a higher success rate (79.3% to 74.2%, 77.7% and 77.5%) so could provide a more controlled option in the middle of the park, with all stats coming from WhoScored.
Anything that helps Newcastle control a game better can only be seen as a good thing. After all, how long could the club rely on defenders such as Federico Fernandez or Fabian Schar scoring from set-pieces? Florian Lejeune aside, of course.
While he may not be a striker to score goals amid the struggles of Joelinton and Andy Caroll, he has proven to be a capable midfielder when it comes to recycling possession. That, in turn, could help the Magpies create a higher quality of chance, meaning the strikes could potentially have a better chance of scoring.
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