Why Ayoze Perez should NOT be dropped at Newcastle

There's always one player at any team, at any given time, who's under more pressure than most.

Friday, 13th October 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:24 pm
Ayoze Perez

That player at Newcastle United, right now, is Ayoze Perez.

There have been calls for Perez – who has started every Premier League game this season – to be dropped.

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But I don’t get it. I really don’t.

Perez is seemingly being judged by his critics on his goals – or lack of them.

The forward, used as a No 10 by Rafa Benitez, is yet to score this season.

Perez hasn’t come close to scoring too many times, and he’s only set up one of the club’s seven league goals.

Yes, the 24-year-old – who had a tough season in the Championship – needs to do more in the final third of the pitch.

But should he be dropped? No, in my opinion.

Perez hasn’t been at his best with the ball, but, out of possession, he’s been invaluable to Benitez – and that’s why he’s been in the team up to now.

The former Spain Under-21 international has pressed and pressed and pressed. He’s been relentless. Only winger Matt Ritchie has covered more ground than Perez, now in his fourth season at United.

We all remember what Perez was like in his first campaign on Tyneside.

Just months after arriving from Tenerife, he was leading the line for injury-hit Newcastle, then managed by Alan Pardew.

Perez had to quickly adjust to the physicality and intensity of English football. That was a big ask for a young player.

He scored seven league goals for a poor United team in the 2014-15 season.

And he scored six more in the club’s relegation campaign for an even poorer team and 12, in total, last term.

So Perez can score. We know that. He’s one of the best finishers at the club.

He’s not playing with the freedom he did in his first couple of seasons because he’s been given a more disciplined role by Benitez, who likes his footballing intelligence.

Perez is disrupting and unsettling teams – he made seven tackles against Stoke City last month – and generally making a nuisance of himself when Newcastle are out of possession.

He does need to do more with the ball, especially on the counter-attack.

The alternative is midfielder Mohamed Diame, who struggled for form last season following his move from Hull City.

Benitez isn’t about to switch Ritchie – or anyone else – inside if he can help it.

Right now, Perez deserves to keep his place ahead of Diame, who knows he must be patient.

I’ve seen comments from supporters saying they can’t see what Perez does to justify his place.

He’s not shone with the ball – yet – but it’s the unseen and often dirty work that’s keeping him in Benitez’s team.