Newcastle United currently sit at the top of the Championship league table, but who have been the stand-out performers to date and who have been slightly below-par? In order of team positions…
Matz Sels: 6 – The big Belgian looked a promising addition to the Magpies squad back in the summer, but has since fallen out of favour following his shaky performance in a 1-1 draw vs Aston Villa in September. Many calls came from supporters to bring back Karl Darlow and they got their wish. However, you get the feeling that Sels has a lot more to prove to the fans as the 24-year-old has made 19 appearances for Belgium at youth level, so don’t write him off just yet.
Karl Darlow: 8 – The ex-Nottingham Forest goalkeeper has once again proven himself since getting the nod in the first team last month. In the last five games, Darlow has made three clean sheets and conceded just four goals – three in which game in the memorable match against Norwich. Although expected to return to the bench when Rob Elliot comes back, it is fair to say Newcastle are very well equipped in the goalkeeping department.
Vurnon Anita: 8 – The experienced Dutchman has divided opinion since Alan Pardew signed him in the summer of 2012, but Fabricio Coloccini’s departure now means he is the club’s longest-serving outfield player. Anita has switched from midfield to full-back under Benitez this season and has been solid as a rock more often than not, (apart from a rare red card vs Wolves), blending well with Matt Richie down the right flank. You’d think his strength and versatility will continue this season.
DeAndre Yedlin: 7 -The USA full-back has impressed in the early days of his United career. He has genuine raw pace and his attitude has been a breath of fresh air. Still lacking that experience but a lot of potential on his shoulders.
Jamaal Lascelles: 8 – Leading from the front with the captain’s arm-band, Lascelles has been at the heart of both relegation but also the Benitez resurgence this season. He has shown his defensive capabilities but also his offensive threat at set-pieces, the highlight coming from his impressive headed goal in front of the Gallowgate against Brighton. Lascelles in Newcastle’s strongest team is a certainty and long may it continue.
Ciaran Clark: 8 – After Aston Villa’s disaster 2015/16 season, it came as quite a surprise Clark was added to the Magpies’ squad in the transfer window. However, he has been a shining light this season partnering Lascelles. Decisive in the air, comfortable on the deck and with already two goals to his name, the Irish international has firmly settled into life under Rafa Benitez.
Grant Hanley: 7 – Short of appearances this season, the Scotsman has had to watch mostly from the bench but when he has appeared, he has looked comfortable similar to Clark. Not forgetting his goal at Loftus Road in the 6-0 win vs QPR.
Chancel Mbemba: 6 – An impressive first season in the Premier League but the African has not really got a grip of the Championship as of yet. His own goal in the 2-0 home defeat to Wolves has summed up a frustrating start, however, Newcastle fans certainly know he has potential.
Paul Dummett: 6 – Academy product Dummett has racked up the first team appearances over the last few seasons but yet you still feel like he has more to give. Can often be done for pace at the back but overall a steady start to the season and a solid left boot.
Jonjo Shelvey: 8 – After a very quiet start, the fans are now getting to see the Shelvey that we want and expect to see when he is on ‘his day’. His most recent performances would merit higher than an eight but consistently over the season it seems about fair.
Jack Colback: 6 – Similar to Dummett, the defensive midfielder seems to have been around for an awful long time – but has he really set the heights so far this Championship season? A lot of Premier League experience for his age of 27, but with a bit more time under Rafa his consistency should improve.
Isaac Hayden: 8 – With twelve league appearances to his name so far, the England U-21 international has been one of the surprises packages of the season. His work on and off the ball and overall contribution has gone somewhat unnoticed this season in Newcastle’s success, but he looks like a potential regular first team starter in the future.
Matt Ritchie: 9- The Scotland international and his magic hat have been a class above the opposition so far and has settled in well in the eyes of the Geordie faithful since his summer arrival from Bournemouth. With four goals in 15 games, he is an exciting prospect and is sure to be a regular starter in Benitez’s side.
Yoan Gouffran: 7 – The majority of fans would have expected the attacking midfielder to be shown the exit door in the summer, however, Benitez had other ideas and what a decision that has proved to be. The Frenchman looks like the exciting player of old, with excellent strikes in wins against Derby County and Wolves in the cup – as well as the crucial equaliser in the 4-3 win against Norwich. Maybe his days aren’t numbered after all.
Christian Atsu: 7 – Carrying a lot of flare and pace, the African has been very lively in his short time on Tyneside so far. With an outstanding winner at Rotherham, Newcastle fans will be eager to see more.
Mo Diamé: 6 – Full of experience in English football, Diamé has failed to impress in the opening few games of his Newcastle career. But after two goals against Preston in the EFL Cup, there is hope among the fans that there is a lot more to come from the 29-year-old.
Ayoze Perez: 7 – Apart from two EFL Cup goals against Cheltenham, the Spaniard had a quiet opening to the season. He struggled to pick up a run of games but his patience has paid off with two goals against Ipswich Town recently followed by netting again three days later in the cup. Definitely a player to stay patient with.
Aleksandar Mitrovic: 7 – The big Serbian has only started twice this season in 16 games, a contrast to how he was favoured last year in the ten games Benitez had in the Premier League where he had four starts and four goals. After his performance against Preston in the cup, expect to see this man appear a bit more!
Dwight Gayle: 9 – Very close to perfection, Gayle has already hit the net ten times in this league season and that number is expected to go up and up. Newcastle’s most influential player.
N/A: (Achraf Lazaar, Jesus Gamez, Daryl Murphy, Cheik Tiote, Rolando Aarons, Massadio Haidara, Rob Elliot).
Featured Image Credit: Yellow Book Limited