I never like to criticise Newcastle United players. Well that’s a lie, I do it all the time. In fact I think it is healthy to be critical of players who aren’t giving it their all, or are only here for the money or are simply using this club as a stepping stone. By being critical of these types of players, we ensure that only those who want to be here don the famous black and white stripes of Newcastle United, or at the very least understand the importance of it. However, none of the above applies to this particular player that I am going to single out for criticism, rather it’s a matter of them no longer being good enough.
The player that I am going to single out for criticism this time (there will be others in the firing line in due course) is Cheick Tiote; one of the stalwarts of the Newcastle United starting XI in previous seasons. In better times he was among the first names on the team sheet but in my opinion this should no longer be the case. Let me explain how I have arrived at my conclusion.
Cheick Tiote arrived in the summer of 2010 in a 3.5 million pound move from FC Twente, following Newcastle United’s promotion back to the Premier League, and he instantly won the hearts of the Newcastle United fans. His blood and guts performances coupled with his no-nonsense style of play embodied the type of resolve we needed to ensure our survival back in the top flight. With the likes of Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton around him in midfield he was free to concentrate on winning the ball, and collecting yellow cards; both of which he was very adept at doing. On his day, Cheick Tiote was unplayable and was arguably player of the season as we finished just outside the top 10 in the 2010/11 season.
Following the arrival of Yohan Cabaye in the summer of 2011, Cheick Tiote looked like he was going to go from strength to strength as they formed what seemed like a formidable midfield pairing in the 2011/12 season as Alan Pardew’s side romped home to 5th place. Tiote was once again key for the Magpies and rumours began to circulate that bigger teams were readying a big money move for the Newcastle United midfielder. Chelsea were supposedly willing to pay 20 million pounds to take the Ivorian to London but a move never materialised, and Newcastle United fans were delighted they kept their man.
The wheels began to come off in the 2012/13 season, in a campaign where no one was covered in glory, Cheick Tiote was high on most fan’s list for being one of the players who underperformed the most. Missing Cabaye at key times of the season, Tiote did not seem to settle. What struck most fans was that for a midfield player, he showed little or no ability when it came to passing a ball, and his lack of awareness of those around him when on the ball was startling. If Tiote wasn’t sticking the boot in, diving into a challenge or attempting to win the ball back, he was useless.
What made matters worse was, despite Tiote’s poor form, he was still considered as first choice for the central defensive midfield position, despite players like Gael Bigirimana and Vurnon Anita outperforming him in that role.
Having looked at pre-season, it would have appeared that Tiote was first choice for that position once more, but injury had provided Alan Pardew with an opportunity to rectify his mistake. Both Anita and Sissoko have surely provided the manager with a selection dilemma following on from their respective impressive displays against Fulham. Anita’s passing ability, and Sissoko’s pace and ability to carry the ball far surpass anything Tiote has done in a Newcastle United shirt and as such, both should be considered ahead of Tiote for selection to the first team.
Perhaps some time on the bench could help Tiote rediscover the form that won the hearts of the Newcastle United faithful. If he managed to do that then the manager would have a great selection headache on his hands. But until he manages to find the form that once had him touted as a 20 million pound player, he should spend a lot of time on the bench.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh on Tiote? Do other players deserve this level of criticism more than him? I’d love to know what you think, so give me a shout!