Rafa Benitez has changed that and suddenly, the vast majority of business conducted was of players brought in from British shores. He even found room in the squad for an experienced striker in Daryl Murphy. It was how recruitment was finalised which presents the most questions.
On Deadline day, Newcastle needed a winger. Preferably someone with pace. They got him. Benitez expressed his desire to take a Ghanian on loan from his former employers, Chelsea. Having arrived at the London outfit in the Summer of 2013, much was expected of him.
At Porto, he had shown all of the raw capabilities you could want from a wide man, but since then, his career had entered a real tailspin. Loan moves to Vitesse and Malaga, as well Everton and Bournemouth proved ineffective.
Now at Newcastle United, Christian Atsu appears to be at home. He even expressed this himself in the build up to Burton Albion away.
“Newcastle is a big club and I respect them.”
“The city is nice and everything is working well.”
Since his arrival, he has already featured more times (16) than he did in his Everton and Bournemouth spells combined (15). He has gotten exactly what he has needed for so long, a chance on the pitch. His goal against Rotherham earlier in the season displayed what his left boot is capable of, and he has impressed recently too.
At Wigan, he come off the bench and smashed home the second goal to kill off the game. In fact, if you look at his brief cameo performance at the DW Stadium, he did more in 20 minutes than Matt Ritchie had in the previous 70.
Granted, at times he can be frustrating. Sometimes making the wrong decision at crucial times, taking on one too many players and showing shades of inexperience from a defensive standpoint. Ultimately, though, he scares full backs. They know they cannot afford to get too close to him, but at the same time cannot give him space to accelerate into. His pace is quite scary and as we have seen with Leicester last season in the Premier League, there is no real resolution for blistering pace.
If and when Newcastle do find themselves back in the top tier of English football, having someone like Christian Atsu for me is a no brainer. Maybe not as a first choice, marquee player, but to have him available on the bench would be so useful.
Lomana Lua Lua was a player that perhaps wasn’t as efficient as he should have been. Goals and assists were hard to come by for him during his time on Tyneside, but his ability to come off the bench and change a game come in very handy at certain times. Remember Arsenal away in 2001? Ray Parlour was sent off just before half time and the introduction of Lua Lua and Laurent Robert totally swung the game in Bobby Robson’s side’s favour. Two assists for Lomana and a 3-1 victory at Highbury for Newcastle.
So, where am I going with this? Well, there are clear parallels. Atsu may never be a player to hit double figures in terms of goals or assists, but just like Lua Lua, he can be a player that wins matches on his own. How? I have no idea. That is the beauty of it.