For all intents and purposes, Moussa Sissoko is a leading light for Newcastle United.
A 6’2”, 26-year-old French international that has attracted interested from all across Europe during his career should be driving Newcastle forward in the same vein as Riyad Mahrez, Bafetimbi Gomis and Yannick Bolasie for their respective clubs.
But, he isn’t. Not by a long shot.
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To a casual observer, Le Blanc-Mensil-born Sissoko probably appears to be a bright spark in a dour Newcastle side. His occasional displays of athleticism and drive - in a highlights package - tend to mask what paying Newcastle fans will know – Moussa Sissoko cannot take over a game.
He has the tools, certainly in a physical aspect. Labelling what Sissoko actually does though is a tough proposition. He has only scored 10 goals in 83 appearances spanning three seasons in January.
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He also only has 15 assists to his name during that period; not quite the productivity levels you would expect from a starting centre midfielder in a talent spoilt French national side.
The former Toulouse man picked up five bookings last season for dissent, the most in the Premier League. He also exhibited a pass completion rate of 79%, while a player like Phil Jones of Manchester United boasted 85.3%.
For such a physical presence, according to the Chronicle, Sissoko had a tackle win percentage of 64% last season which is lower than Yohan Cabaye’s 76.09% from the season prior.
There are several factors to consider when examining Sissoko’s underwhelming influence. Anyone who has seen Sissoko play for his country will know he looks a totally different player in the engine room alongside a sea of stars. At the end of the day, Vurnon Anita is not Paul Pogba.
His supporting cast on Tyneside hasn’t brought out the best in him and indeed, some players do especially flourish with great players around them. It’s impossible to expect Sissoko to hit top from when he has been deployed as a right winger for the majority of his Newcastle career.
He isn’t a winger. He might have the pace required to trouble opponents - which makes him an attractive option in that position, but dribbling at defenders in crowded spaces or whipping in crosses aren’t his forte and that’s wide man 101.
Sissoko is two-and-a-half years into a six-and-a-half year deal he signed after Newcastle prized him from Toulouse with six months remaining on his deal for a bargain £1.5 million.
He may well have a worthwhile repertoire to command a fee close to £15m, mainly showcased in the international arena, but Sissoko is more of a good role player in a top side than a leader or catalyst anywhere else.
He cannot drive Newcastle forward in its current state. He doesn’t have a defined role in a side yet to find their own identity or strategy. At his age, it’s only a matter of time before he considers a move away from St James’ and, in truth, it wouldn’t hurt either party to consider such a proposal.
It’s not to say Sissoko doesn’t have his merits; witnessing the Frenchmen in full flight is a joy to behold. Unless you’re Ashley Cole back in January 2013.
But, the stats do not lie: he hasn’t produced. More than that, under owner Mike Ashley, Newcastle isn’t a club where he can ever thrive. As likeable as he may be, he doesn’t have the heart to fight for the cause with what's around him.
It wouldn't be surprising if he was thinking about the exit door (like comments he made about Arsenal in the summer) just like the recent big money arrivals will be doing within the next two years. And that's not their fault, Ashley has installed that mentality.
Is Moussa Sissoko the vital player that many fans believe he is? Have your say in the comments section below!
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