In a matter of weeks, Newcastle midfielder Christian Atsu has went from disappointing benchwarmer to genuinely exciting talent.

The Ghanaian made just a handful of substitute appearances earlier in the season but has now started five of the last six games.

Against Watford on Saturday he looked in the form of his life, taking on defenders at will.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

A skilful turn and layoff in the first half took two Watford players out the game, and was instrumental in creating Newcastle’s opening goal.

The winger looks to be improving with every game and it may not be long until he starts adding goals and assists to his game.

But his emergence as one of Newcastle’s best attacking threats seems odd.

The Ghanaian frustrated plenty of Newcastle fans last year with his flat and abject performances.

Just where has his form come from?

Years of hurt: How Atsu played through injury

Unbeknownst to many supporters, Atsu actually spent years playing through a horrific knee injury.

The winger sustained the injury while still at Chelsea, but was told by their medical staff he did not require an operation.

(Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Speaking to The Shields Gazette, he said: ““When I was at Chelsea I was told I didn’t have to have the surgery and that I had to do strength work every day.

“I was doing the strength work each and every day before training. The injury was still there.

“I had the injury for three years.”

It’s insane to think that Newcastle purchased a player with a seemingly chronic injury.

The knee pain effected the midfielder’s ability to shoot and even his pace, a vital component for a winger.

It explains why he was so ineffective at times last year, as he was simply unable to beat most opponents.

He managed just two goals last season and four assists.

“I was average, to be honest,” said Atsu.

“I can’t blame myself solely, because I was carrying injuries for a long time. That’s why I’m happy. Finally, I can play without injury.”

A New beginning

Last season, Atsu finally recieved an operation on his knee, ending the campaign six games early.

Speaking to The Shields Gazette, he said “After the game we played against Leicester when we won, I believed we would stay in the league.

“I spoke with the doctor and said if anything needs to be done, this is the time, so that I would be back for pre-season.

Atsu visited three specialists before making the final decision on his surgery.

Since the operation, it’s fair to say he’s looked a different player.

It’s taken a few games to reach his stride, but the winger now looks like he can be a genuine threat in the league.

With a few more games under his belt, he may well become one of Newcastle’s shining lights in a difficult season.

(Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United)

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