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Nothing should be too much of a surprise around Newcastle, but Mo Diame becoming a vital part of the midfield? We didn’t see that coming!
Although he is not the long-term solution for Rafael Benitez, he is someone who the Spanish coach knows he can call on without worrying about his fitness levels or him making a silly mistake. Diame was specifically bought for the Championship season as he operated as the No.10 link between the striker (Dwight Gayle) and the midfield two, having previously done that in the league for Hull City the season before.
What has transpired since then is that Newcastle failed to replace him with a Tom Cairney or a James Maddison. As a result, the 30-year-old was retained for Premier League football. From there on, his position in the side began to change, with Diame now shuffled back to sit in the central midfield two. The Senegalese midfielder has been doing a surprisingly good job.
It has become clear that Mikel Merino and Jonjo Shelvey cannot play together in those roles and so it tends to be one or the other while holding midfielder Isaac Hayden has perhaps not gone on to improve as much as the club would have liked and isn’t 100% trusted by Benitez at this point.
Jack Colback and Henri Saivet have both been offloaded and so it is Diame who is the go-to man to bulk up the central midfield. The former Wigan Athletic and West Ham United man has found his calling in this role, having been a No.10 before this and the fans, especially away from home, are really showing their appreciation for a job well done of late.
Shelvey likes to move to wherever he feels he will get the ball, while Merino drifts further ahead to join the attack. But Diame is a big, strong individual, who has shown he has the discipline needed to stay put in the middle of the park and provide Newcastle with some vital defensive cover.
As recently as three months ago, I would never have thought this way but as things stand in this squad right now, I have no hesitation in naming Diame in the midfield before I even choose whoever partners him in the Premier League between now and the end of the season.
There’s a lot to be said for basic passing quality and strength and in that regard, Diame has seen it all and done it all and without looking for the spectacular, he simply gets on with his job.