Mo Diame was one of Newcastle United’s surprise heroes by the end of last season, but his inconsistent form this year is once again frustrating fans.
This time last year Diame was seen as something of a clumsy player and was criticised for being lazy and losing his fair share of possession.
But a huge part of Newcastle’s turn in fortune that season was his sudden emergence as a midfield powerhouse.
His ability to win back possession was phenomenal and his partnership with Jonjo Shelvey flourished. Although still not the greatest going forward, he looked comfortable on the ball and making passes.
It all came seemingly out of nowhere for the Senegalese midfielder.
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But the truth is Diame had previously never been used as a central midfielder for the Toon. In fact, for the entire Championship season he was used in a number 10 role.
It appeared that Rafa Benitez had finally found Diame’s perfect position in the team.
Unfortunately, the midfielder seems to have slipped back into his old habits during Newcastle’s nightmare start to this campaign.
He is struggling in possession and doesn’t seem to dominate the midfield like he once did.
Newcastle fans are now starting to criticise him heavily, seemingly baffled as to how his performances can swing so dramatically.
But does he deserve it?
Diame’s performances so far
This is not a statistic you want from your ball-winning midfielder. It is particularly worrying that almost all the players around him on the list are forwards or attacking players.
Newcastle cannot afford for their attacks to break down in midfield, but that is exactly what is happening with Diame.
Yet as far as statistics go, it is his only real evident fault.
The tough tackler ranks third in the Premier League for successful challenges this season.
With 36 he has actually been responsible for around 19% of Newcastle’s tackles this season (186 total).
That is an outstanding achievement for an individual player.
When you start to accept his main role is to protect the defence, surely he can take some praise for Newcastle’s impressive lack of goals conceded this term?
Unfortunately, Newcastle have a huge goal scoring problem and when you cant get the ball out of the midfield, it only adds to the predicament.
Benitez must now decide whether he wants to continue defending, or start creating chances.
Ki vs Diame
Given how poorly results have gone, it might be time to play Ki Sung-yueng alongside Shelvey in the midfield.
The South Korean has previous experience with Shelvey at Swansea and replaced Diame in the second-half against Southampton this weekend.
Although it didn’t change the score line, Ki was far more comfortable on the ball.
It was only his third Premier League appearance for the Toon and should he be given more chances, he may make a difference to the team going forward.
Its certainly what a lot of the fans have been calling for: