Georginio Wijnaldum knows a thing or two about what makes a good team.
After all, the midfielder captained PSV Eindhoven to the Dutch league title last season.
We have quality in the team, but that’s not enough. You have to do it good as a team and all together.Georginio Wijnaldum
Almost a year after that triumph, Wijnaldum finds himself in a very different situation, though, sadly, it is an all-too-familiar predicament for his new club.
Newcastle United are second-bottom of the Premier League and six points adrift of safety.
The club, without a win since early February, has just six games left, with Swansea City next up at St James’s Park tomorrow.
And the odds are on a return to the Championship after a six-year stay in the top flight.
Wijnladum’s own form has suffered along with that of a team which simply isn’t playing as a team.
The injury-hit club, having spent almost £80million in the last two transfer windows, has the individual talent.
But collectively, the team has been found wanting.
It has everything yet nothing.
Wijnaldum, for his part, has acknowledged the problem.
United are not united enough on the field.
“We have quality in the team, but that’s not enough,” admits Wijnaldum.
“You have to do it good as a team and all together.”
Wijnaldum, overlooked for the captain’s armband when Fabricio Coloccini suffered a calf injury in February despite his experience in skippering PSV, feels the biggest thing Newcastle lack is “confidence”.
Asked about the contrast between this year and last season, the Holland international said: “It was a different situation.
“We won a lot. The confidence is always there, you’re helping each other.
“It it goes well, everyone feels good and enjoys it.
“When you enjoy football, you’re at your best.
“It’s a different situation now.
“There’s not a lot of confidence, so it’s harder to manage a team that doesn’t have confidence.
“Things will happen by themselves if you’re in good shape.
“Right now, it’s difficult.”
Wijnaldum – whose favoured position is No10 – has found it especially difficult to build on his promising start to life at St James’s Park.
The 25-year-old quickly settled on Tyneside, and in English football, after his move from Holland and scored four goals in one game, the 6-2 demolition of Norwich City at St James’s Park in October.
By the time the return fixture at Carrow Road came around earlier this month, the optimism of that goal-laden afternoon had long gone.
Wijnaldum remains the club’s leading scorer with nine goals despite having not found the net since January.
And he found himself shuffled to a more defensive midfield role against Southampton last weekend.
United were beaten 3-1 at the St Mary’s Stadium.
Things started badly for Newcastle – the home side scored in the fourth minute – and got worse.
Benitez lost Daryl Janmaat to injury – he limped off the field with a groin problem and broke two fingers punching the dressing room wall in frustration – and Southampton captain Jose Fonte told of the “nervousness” he saw in the visiting team after the match once Shane Long put them ahead.
Fonte said: “As soon as the first goal went in, you could see the nervousness and the confidence going.
“It’s a tough situation to be in.
“They just need to keep going and believing in each other.”
Wijnaldum – whose performances have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months – knows he must do better with and without the ball.
“I was playing as a central midfielder, not an attacking midfielder, but still, I think I must create more chances in a game,” said Wijnaldum, who set up Aleksanxdar Mitrovic’s equaliser against Sunderland last month with a superb cross.
United were backed by 1,762 fans at Southampton – there were boos at the final whistle when the players applauded them – and there will be around 50,000 at St James’s Park for the Swansea game.
“I understand (their anger and frustration),” said Wijnaldum, signed for a £14.5million fee.
“I’m happy they are still supporting us.
“We are in a difficult situation and we need all the support we can get and especially the support from the supporters.”