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Newcastle United continued their strong run of form in the Premier League, as they came out with a point against Southampton, playing out a 2-2 draw at the St. Mary’s. The result meant that the Magpies continued to stay at 9th place in the league table, and have tasted defeat just once in their past six league games.
Rafael Benitez’s men could have walked away with all three points if not for Manolo Gabbiadini’s two equalisers, but a point against a potential top ten rival is still not a bad result. A lot of Newcastle players performed exceptionally on the day against Mauricio Pellegrino’s Saints, with one of the goal-scorers Isaac Hayden, winger Matt Ritchie and captain Jamaal Lascelles all impressing heavily.
However, the standout performer for the Tynesiders on the pitch against the South Coast club, for me, was Ayoze Perez. The Spaniard struck the second goal for his side and put in one of his best displays of the season and the fact that his presence was heavily missed once he was subbed off highlighted how much of an impact he had on the game.
In an attacking player, the most important traits that anyone looks at is the kind of runs that they make in the final third, the movement, the link-up play and the ability to find the goal when the chance presents itself. But often, one aspect that goes unnoticed and gets under-appreciated is the defensive shift that the forwards put in.
It is an important part of the game; the strikers acting as a first line of press, and Perez’s display against the Saints highlighted how effective he can be in performing those duties. The 24-year old’s most important contribution on the day was the goal, no doubt, but his overall efforts were vital for Newcastle’s fortunes.
The goal Perez scored in the game against Southampton was his first of the season. The 24-year old effected three interceptions, while he went on to complete one of his five attempted tackles and one take-on in the game.
When one takes a look at his overall numbers from the season so far, Perez has just a single assist to go with his goal against the Saints. He has created 9 goal-scoring chances so far and has completed 9 out of his 14 attempts to dribble past opponents. 7 interceptions, 4 clearances and 5 successful tackles out of 35 attempted give an inkling into his defensive work-rate.
Having joined the club back in 2014 from Tenerife, Perez, throughout his three-year spell, has shown great signs of promise. The 24-year old has netted 26 times and has registered 10 assists for Newcastle from 126 games so far. While the fans have never been in doubt over his talent and ability, it is the lack of consistency in his game that leaves the supporters frustrated.
It has been the same case this term as well; there have been sparks, fleeting glimpses of what he can do when he gets going, but the Spaniard just doesn’t seem to do it enough on a consistent basis. The performance against Southampton typified everything Perez is about – hard work, determination and doggedness. Perez has grown into an important player at the St. James’ Park in the past few years and on the evidence of his display against Southampton this past weekend, the 24-year old will be a major player in shaping Newcastle’s season.