Arriving at St James’ Park on loan from Schalke in January might have been a relief for Nabil Bentaleb. The Miners, managed by David Wagner, endured a torrid season, and occasionally flirted with the relegation places before finishing 12th in the Bundesliga.
His stint in the northeast began with a steady start, though the 25-year-old former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder grew in stature upon returning to the Premier League. His sublime performance, controlling the midfield against Bournemouth was incredibly promising for Bentaleb, giving Steve Bruce an alternative to Isaac Hayden in midfield.
However, when facing considerably more steely opposition in the form of Manchester City on Wednesday, the Algerian’s weaknesses were exposed. Only three outfield players who started the match against the Sky Blues recorded a lower pass accuracy than the playmakers’ 74.4 per cent.
Unlike against the Cherries, when put under intense pressure from the Sky Blues, Bentaleb could not find an escape route and ended up conceding possession all too frequently. The worst of these mistakes was made in the dying embers of the match, with the score already at 4-0, a loose pass from the Algerian international was picked off by Bernardo Silva 40 yards from goal.
The Portuguese ace wasted no time in breaking forwards, and with City three on one, the outcome was inevitable. The Premier League is brutally unforgiving, and lapses in concentration such as those are punished all too often.
In attacking areas Bentaleb was equally inept; he did not manage a key pass, nor did he dribble around an opponent, with his only contribution an unsuccessful touch to concede possession, as per WhoScored.
The 25-year-old has proven particularly ineffective against the Premier League’s elite sides since arriving at St James’ Park,.Newcastle have now conceded 11 goals in his five starts, with nine of those coming against Manchester City and Arsenal. He was utterly overrun in the engine room on Wednesday, as was the case with the Gunners hammering, and he cannot be allowed to be a passenger in such high-profile drubbings.
Not only the result, but the performance on Wednesday too hurt Bentaleb’s chances of securing a permanent move to Tyneside. The midfielder may have opportunities against former side Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool to restore his credibility, but if all he can offer is bright showings against the divisions’ weaker outfits, he should not be returning to St James’ Park next term.