Sports Features Sat, 22 Dec 2018

Christian Atsu's desire to seize his chance at Newcastle United should be applauded

Newcastle United winger Christian Atsu in his line for his fifth start this season this weekend, and his fourth in a row - something which two months ago would have seemed unlikely.

The Ghanaian came into the side to replace Matt Ritchie against Everton after the Scotsman missed out through the suspension. Given Ritchie's integral role under Rafa Benitez since he joined in the summer of 2016, the assumption was that Atsu would make way against Wolves the following week.

Yet Benitez stuck with him - he stuck with him despite the fact that Atsu should have scored the winner late on the game at Goodison Park to send United home with three points.

But for more than the missed opportunity at the death, Atsu put in a performance that showed why Chelsea signed him as 21-year-old. He was fast, precise, creative and attacking.

He had a pass success rate of 86 per cent - only Ki was more effective.

Against Wolves, he had a similarly impressive game, showing off the attack intent which persuaded Benitez to pay £6million to make his loan deal from Chelsea permanent.

His pass accuracy of 82.1 per cent - 23 completed out of 28 - was again only beaten by Ki (93.2 per cent) with a forward pass completion of 68 per cent - 17 passes - only beaten again by the South Korean.

Atsu again started against Huddersfield, and while his performance dropped, he was not alone with stats showing that United across the board were poor.

Yet for Atsu to be in this position, a genuine one where a case can be made from him to start in place of Kenedy or Ritchie, is credit to his attitude.

He is a man who splits opinion, the standard set in the Championship-winning season was not met last season, and poor substitute appearances in the first three months of the season did little to win over his doubters.
Source: ghanasoccernet.com