Ayoze Pérez is leading Newcastle’s resurgence
The Spaniard demonstrated against Chelsea why he is one of the Premier League’s biggest talents
When Ayoze Pérez joined Newcastle United in the summer, he’d never played a single game of top-flight football in his life. The youngster had admittedly come off a brilliant campaign in the Spanish Segunda División with his hometown club Tenerife, but they’d still only finished in mid-table. Despite reported interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona, Ayoze certainly wasn’t expected to immediately establish himself as one of the top attacking talents in the Premier League.
And yet, six months later, here we are.
The Magpies may have been kicking themselves after failing to retain loanee Loïc Rémy in the summer, but so far Ayoze is proving to offer the North East club everything the Frenchman did — and maybe more. Consistently impressive performances have enabled him to force his way off the bench and into the first team, and Alan Pardew’s faith is being repaid. And his performance as Newcastle clung on to become the first team to defeat Chelsea this season was worthy of an established Premier League regular, yet it came from a scrawny 21-year-old in his debut season in England.
Ayoze didn’t find the net against Chelsea, but in every other regard, the Spaniard continued to defy expectations, and make a mockery of his £1.5 million price tag. He started the game up front — an uneviable task for anyone in a game in which Newcastle were unlikely to see much of the ball. Sure enough, he was pretty quiet throughout the opening period, but showed one glimpse of his talent near the end of the half when he held off a defender before slipping the onrushing Jack Colback through with Francesco Totti-esque precision.
However, it wasn’t really until the second half, when Pardew shunted him out on the flank, that Ayoze demonstrated his full array of talents. Upon arrival in England, it’s not uncommon for young players to require a season or two to acclimatise. It’s a cliché, but the pace and physicality of the Premier League can prove a challenge for players used to slower leagues — never mind a 21-year-old. But, tasked with man-marking the advances of first César Azpilicueta and then Filipe Luís, Ayoze coped admirably. His tireless running was vital tactically, forcing Chelsea to play through the middle and making it easier for Newcastle to stop the ball entering the box.
Going forward, his pace constantly caused a threat on the counter-attack, and he indirectly had a hand in the build-up to Newcastle’s all-important second goal after drawing a challenge from a Chelsea defender.
With another performance worthy of the man of the match prize, Ayoze must be one of the first names on Pardew’s teamsheet. Despite his young age and his rather unimposing physique, he has an unfamiliar blend of technique and strength, and he’s playing a massive part in Newcastle’s resurgence as a result. As premature as the ‘next Shearer’ column-fillers may be, there’s no doubt that if Ayoze continues in this vein of form, he will go down as one of the signings of the season.