Matt Ritchie notched himself another assist for the season against Watford, and yet again it was a goal created from his new left wing-back position.

Ritchie was first utilised as a wing-back against Burnley in November and Rafa Benitez is beginning to favour the midfielder in the role.

In five of his last seven games, the Scotsman has now started in left wing-back.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

His position change came after Benitez began to use a five at the back formation following the Burnley win.

Ritchie was already known for his great defensive qualities and work rate, and he’s taken to the position with little discomfort.

Now it seems the midfielder may remain their for the rest of the season, but does the position bring the best out of Ritchie?

Ritchie’s performances in LWB so far

Benitez’s first experiment with Ritchie at left-back was a brilliant success.

Playing against a stoic Burnley side, Ritchie cause the opposition all sorts of problems with his overlapping runs.

He bagged an assist following good play from a corner, and also spurned a chance to score late on.

His performance may have been remembered for that horror miss, but it was a promising display in an unfamiliar role.

(Photo by James Baylis – AMA/Getty Images)

However since then, his output has been mixed.

While his attacking play can rarely be questioned, it’s the increase in defensive work which may be a problem.

In his last five starts as a left back, Ritchie has made eight tackles.

But in his last ten starts in midfield he made 22 tackles. That’s a much higher average per game.

Against Watford, his failure to close down Deulofeu’s cross for Abdoualye Doucoure’s goal also showed his inexperience in a back line.

Had he pressured the winger, Newcastle may well have retained a 1-0 lead away from home.

But the Scotsman still has time to improve as a defender, and bizarrely the position appears to have benefited him in attack.

Ritchie creating more from defence

It’s fair to say that Matt Ritchie had disappointed supporters at the start of the season.

In the first 11 games of the season, he managed just one assist, coming on the opening day of the season against Spurs.

Yet in in defence, he’s already created two goals in less than half the time.

In his 12 starts in midfield this season, Ritchie made 15 key passes. As a left back he’s already made 12 in five matches.

But the most important stat is Ritchie’s crossing.

The midfielder’s main attacking outlet is to provide crosses to the likes of Salomon Rondon, and from left back he’s seen far more success.

(Photo credit PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

From right midfield, despite plenty of efforts, he managed just 15 accurate crosses in 12 starts.

But remarkably, he’s already surpassed that at left-back with 16 in five games.

A lot of this has to do with his movement from the right to the left.

Being left-footed with little pace, Ritchie often has to cut back onto his left foot when playing right wing.

It’s a technique that sees mixed success, highlighted by his poor crossing return earlier in the season.

However on the left, the midfielder can cross earlier without slowing down and effecting the striker’s run.

Even if Benitez tires of five at the back in the near future, he must seriously consider playing Ritchie on the left permanently.

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