Goal number one was simple for Dwight Gayle, but why? Well, the chance was laid on a plate for him. He barely had to jump in order to get his head to the ball and direct it into the bottom corner of the net. The cross was provided by Mo Diame, after he shifted past the left back in his gazelle like motion. It was absolutely delightful. It seemed to spark something in him. He seemed to believe in himself.
Another chance was created for Yoan Gouffran, as he again hurried down the right hand side and pulled the ball back to the edge of the 18 yard box. As he made fools of defenders and shoved midfielders off the ball, people began to wonder who they were actually watching. This was a totally different player they have become accustomed to so far this season. This was the man they thought they had bought in the summer.
As of Saturday morning, Mo Diame had created 12 chances in the league and his pass completion rate was as low as 70%, poor for an attacking midfield player. By the end of the game, he had created 14 chances and his pass completion had risen to 79%. He also completed 3 take-ons, a personal high for him in a Newcastle shirt. The most dramatic improvement though, comes in the form of his aerial duels. He has been criticized by many for appearing lethargic and quite lazy, but the following stat shows that something just clicked for him on Saturday. His average % of aerial duels won? 34.04%. On Saturday alone? 67%. Startling.
I have stated before that I believe the only thing keeping us within touching distance of our competitors is the lack of form shown by Mo Diame. Last term, he dragged a very average Hull City team over the line, his winner at Wembley will never be forgotten. In a better side this season, there is no reason that he cannot cement himself as the big player in this division. He has all the attributes you could wish for as a footballer and he has now shown all of those to the Black and White Army.
Rafa Benitez will say that Diame does not have to be scoring goals to be effective. Fans are beginning to see exactly what he means. When he is interested, he terrifies defenders, pushing them back 5-10 yards.
I am not going to say that Diame is going to be brilliant from now on, but it is clear that when we do see the best of him, we are going to be excited. This is the reason he was signed by the club, because he has something that others do not.
For anybody still wondering exactly how good he was against Birmingham, think Moussa Sissoko with a functioning left foot and a footballing brain.