JOHN Carver has challenged Moussa Sissoko to lead Newcastle United by example – and “drive” the team up the table.
Sissoko was handed the captain’s armband in the absence of suspended skipper Fabricio Coloccini.
But the midfielder – who will captain Newcastle against Liverpool at Anfield tonight as Coloccini serves the final match of his three-game ban – was unable to inspire his team-mates in last weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby.
And Sissoko came under fire from fans in the wake of the club’s fifth successive defeat to Sunderland.
The 25-year-old – whose form has dipped during the injury crisis which has deprived head coach Carver of a clutch of key players – has been handed more defensive responsibilities in the absence through injury of Cheik Tiote.
But Sissoko is looking for a way to release the France international from his “shackles” between now and the end of the season.
The captain is your leader and what you don’t see is he is excellent with the French guysJohn Carver
“It is important you get the best of your players,” said Carver, who has been forced to field Sissoko’s midfield colleague Jack Colback at left-back.
“You talk about Moussa, which is interesting, but also look at Jack. He has had to play in a different position. He drives the team forward. Has been the most consistent performer of the season.
“Because of circumstances, he has had to play in a different position.
“Moussa to an extent, and I have said this before, we had had to put the shackles on him, because of circumstances.
“You want him free running forward, dominating games with his pace and strength. At the moment that is not happening.”
Vocal defender Daryl Janmaat is the choice of many supporters to skipper United in the absence of Coloccini and vice-captains Tiote and Siem De Jong.
But Carver instead opted for Sissoko, who is an influential figure in a dressing room with a large Francophone contingent.
“The captain is your leader and what you don’t see is he is excellent with the French guys,” said Carver, whose side are 13th in the Premier League table with seven games left to play.
“He keeps them in check. He is the enforcer, which is good.
“Sometimes you give extra responsibilities to players and they thrive, sometimes they freeze. I have seen him have excellent games as captain, (like) Arsenal.
“But he had one of his quieter games against Sunderland.”