Newcastle United are in a terrible situation at the moment as they sit second-bottom in the Premier League table. Many fans and pundits have suggested they have been lacking a true leader on the pitch, but the Magpies might just have found it from a very unlikely source.
Moussa Sissoko's Newcastle career has been a very strange one to say the least, his popularity among the Geordies has been like a yo-yo from the minute he arrived. In recent times, he has been blasted because of his lack of conviction, desire and effort but new manager Rafael Benitez may have changed all of his fortunes with two simple moves.
For the game against Swansea last Saturday, Moussa Sissoko was named as captain and played through the middle of the park instead of on the right wing. The decision to name him as captain was met with a lot of discontent from the Newcastle faithful but it may have been a stroke of genius from Benitez as Sissoko's performance was vastly improved.
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He played with a lot more heart and desire from the outset as he created chance after chance for his teammates and dominated the middle of the park. Some people have put this down to the fact that he was playing in the middle, his preferred position, but only he will know which one it really was.
Following the Swansea game, Benitez was asked about his decision to name Sissoko as captain, “I am really pleased with him because since I came here, the only thing I can say is that he’s been really good in terms of his work on the pitch, the things he is trying to do in the training sessions and also the relationships he has with a lot of the players.
"He is someone that they can see as a very influential player with a lot of our French players, and I think it is important because he is so good that he has confidence. It is a boost for him and also for the team.
"We have a lot of players who talk French, so then you need someone like him who is a big name for them and they can see he is a good player, a great player and if he is performing and working as hard as he has been working, the others have to follow him.”
Sissoko was able to extend his good form as Newcastle hosted Manchester City on Tuesday evening. He once again starred in a central role as the Magpies picked up a very respectable point against the Champions League semi-finalists.
The Frenchman had a hand in the Newcastle goal when he picked out Vurnon Anita with a cross field pass minutes after he broke through the entire City team only to squander a glorious one-on-one opportunity to beat Joe Hart.
Rafael Benitez has really revitalised Moussa Sissoko over the last two matches and if it continues then Sissoko could be the key to whether Newcastle retaining their Premier League status this season.
The truth is, Newcastle really need him to be at his brilliant best for the four remaining games of the season if they want to stay up. However, based on his previous inconsistency, the likelihood is that he will not be able to maintain such a high level when it goes right down to the wire.
Has any other player improved significantly since Rafael Benitez arrived? Leave your comments below!
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