22 Striker Newcastle United Spain
Handy, María Jiménez born boy wonder that dazzled for Tenerife before heading north to Newcastle United in 2014. Agile and quick footed, Ayoze Pérez Gutiérrez – something of a star on his home island – has also became a firm favourite in the north east. His slick movement and willingness to chase down opponents has been in sharp contrast to several of his teammates at St James Park over the last two years.
2015 has been…
All about context. Ayoze made a tremendous impact for Newcastle in the early part of the 2014-15 season. A series of late arriving cameos was followed up with a clutch of first team starts in which he really shone. Goals against Tottenham, Liverpool and West Brom helped the Magpies into the top half of the Premier League with the young Spaniard instrumental as his side collected five straight victories.
His goal in the 3-2 win over Everton in the very last game of 2014 marked something of a turning point for both club and player. With Alan Pardew departing for Crystal Palace, Ayoze retained his position in the team under caretaker manager John Carver but did not score again until the end of April this year as Newcastle – not for the first time – capitulated spectacularly.
Newcastle had been in decline for a considerable period, but three wins in 19 league games under Carver marked a new low - for the time being at least. Avoiding relegation from the Premier League on the final day of the season with victory over West Ham, Ayoze remained on the bench for the only time during the season.
Now the context aspect here relates to what Ayoze was able to influence. His goalscoring tally was fairly modest when considering the number of games played, but that doesn’t take into account just how awful Newcastle have been for much of 2015. Despite watching several of his colleagues go through the motions, Ayoze continued to work hard and make the most of whatever scraps were offered. Frequently the ball winner, the young Spaniard’s willingness to pursue lost causes have made him a favourite on Tyneside and is regularly absolved of blame from fans whenever Newcastle’s latest crisis unfolds.
Under new coach Steve McClaren, Ayoze has continued to operate as a second striker behind either Papiss Cissé or Aleksandar Mitrović, however it is the potential of his partnership with the fiery Serb that is the most interesting and could yet define his time on Tyneside.
Recent wins against Liverpool and Tottenham have hinted once more that Newcastle have the foundation of a decent team in place. Summer arrivals Wijnaldum, Mbemba, Mitrović and Thauvin are individuals that we know very well in these parts and could still become huge players for Newcastle, they certainly have the ability. Nevertheless, while there is a suggestion that the Magpies have turned a corner in escaping the Premier League’s bottom three recently, it will take a lot more to convince us that the club is heading in the right direction.
Regrettably, Newcastle remains little more than a departure lounge of a football club – a short term stopping off point before destinations further up the food chain. Players are bought with future resale value the most important component and sales ensure that the St James’ Park outfit ‘lives within its means’; a sound business model adopted widely across Europe but very difficult to nail in the ultra-competitive Premier League and regularly shit to watch.
It’s highly likely that Ayoze will have been sold on his move to Newcastle under the pretence that this would be a stepping stone and in that respect things have worked out well. The lack of a significant statistical return in the ‘goals for’ column hasn’t put off any suitors and several are circling. January may be a little too early but we’d be surprised to see him still in the north east by next summer. A humble kid, none of this will be mentioned by Ayoze however, which is part of his charm, nonetheless cold, hard economics will eventually kick in.
We’d like to see Ayoze play in a fluid team under a forward thinking coach so that he can reach full potential and gain international recognition. That might still be at Newcastle but recent history suggests it’s unlikely.
C Has learned well in England and is now ready to make the next step
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