Next up is the Christian Atsu news from the window. After spending the season on loan with the Magpies in the Championship, Christian Atsu joined on a permanent deal in the summer. Newcastle were clearly impressed enough to exercise the permanent £6.2mil option within the loan deal agreement they had with Chelsea.
Nationality: 42 Caps 9 Goals
Position: attacking left-midfielder, can also play on the right or wide midfield
Transfer Fee: £6.2mil
Contract Length: 4 years
2016/17 League Stats (Championship) 15 starts (17 sub appearances) 5 goals (3 assists)
Verdict: Christian Atsu clearly did enough last season to convince Newcastle that he was worth signing permanently and furthermore on a 4 year deal. He averaged, a fairly impressive for a midfielder, goal just over every 3 games, even factoring in substitute appearances.
However he has struggled to establish himself in recent seasons. A number of loans at different clubs since signing for Chelsea and lack of stability hasn’t helped. Barring a loan spell with Vitesse, Atsu has had an underwhelming record out on loan. He has struggled to make much of an impact at Everton, Bournemouth and Malaga before dropping down a division and joining Newcastle last season on loan.
Even at St. James’ last season, it could be argued he struggled to really establish himself in the first team picture. 15 league starts wasn’t great even for a competition with the long and hectic schedule such as the Championship. Atsu found himself on the bench 21 times.
Given the committed, physical nature of the opposition in the second tier, not to mention Newcastle were favourites more often than not, you can see why other players were preferred over Atsu last season. Benitez likely preferred Gouffran a lot last season because of his hard-working attitude. One thing a lot of teams in the Championship aren’t short of are determination and work-rate so even with their greater technical ability it would have been important that Newcastle were not second best when it came to commitment. They would need to be prepared for teams raising their game against the biggest team, by far, in the division.
Whilst as favourites, Newcastle would face deeper defensive lines and have to play in tighter spaces, this would undoubtedly suit more experienced, technical players such as Ritchie and less pace dependent players like Atsu. Without the space to exploit players with the attributes like Atsu can struggle to make an impact.
As you would expect for an attacking wide player, Atsu has bags of pace. He also has very good dribbling ability. His crossing does leave a little to be desired however. With this in mind I would argue that going forward his best position could end up being an attacking right-sided midfielder. Allowing him to cut in on his favoured left foot rather than getting to the byline and putting in crosses. Running at defences or using his effective shooting ability would play much more to his strengths.
Now, at 25 years old, Atsu really needs to establish himself within a team and bring some of his international form, into his club career, week in, week out. He has racked up a lot of caps considering his age and a respectable amount of goals (see above) but it’s fair to say he has disappointed so far in England and is still yet to realise the undoubted potential he showed in Portugal and brought him to the attention of Chelsea.
So far this season, Atsu has started every game for Newcastle. It’s still early days but it looks like he is going to have the opportunities. Newcastle won’t be favourites as often this season so expect teams to give them more space this season. Funnily enough playing in the Premiership could suit Atsu more than the Champioinship.
Newcastle’s transfer window was also disappointing so Atsu doesn’t face the strongest of competition for a first-team place, especially with the experienced Gouffran leaving in search of a longer contract. He does however still have the top, young prospect Jacob Murphy, recently signed from Norwich, waiting in the wings. So it is up to Atsu to now make the most of his chance and secure his position as an important player for Newcastle. He looks to be in pole position.
I’m sure he has the ability to become an established Premiership player at a club like Newcastle, going forward but I’m unconvinced he will find the consistency he needs to secure a move back to a club like Chelsea. His game is probably a bit too one-dimensional which may also harm his longevity in my opinion.
Toon Army! 💪🏿⚪⚫⚽
— Christian Atsu (@ChristianAtsu20) May 24, 2017
How far can Atsu go? Good signing? Future Newcastle starter? Share what you think below.