MOUSSA SISSOKO has been backed to revel in the extra pressure placed on him to perform for Newcastle United this season after Alan Pardew told the Frenchman: “You can be our leader on the pitch.”
The former Toulouse midfielder performed solidly on Sunday as Newcastle threatened to prevent Premier League champions Manchester City from leaving Tyneside with three points.
Sissoko operated in his preferred central role alongside the effective Jack Colback and was given freedom to push forward more because Vurnon Anita was deployed in the holding role.
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Pardew wants Sissoko to build on his recent performances, having also impressed when he returned to the team in pre-season.
And the 25-year-old’s powerful running and ability to brush off a challenge has left his manager purring, suggesting the £1.8m recruit from Ligue 1 has the character and ability to become a key player for the Magpies this season.
“I wouldn’t say Yohan Cabaye was the leader in the dressing room as such but he was a leader on the pitch in terms of the way he pulled the strings and dictated the pace and Moussa is a different type of player to him,”
“I think Moussa can lead us with his spirit and his drive.
That is his strength and he has already shown that in his early games here when he scored against Chelsea.
He has such tremendous power and, of course, in the Premier League that is very important and in the world game too.”
When Sissoko moved from Toulouse in January last year he settled immediately into the Premier League, scoring twice in a 3-2 win over Chelsea. A few weeks later he netted in a 4-2 triumph over Southampton and looked the complete midfielder.
Since, however, he has not been able to hit those heights regularly and failed to turn on the style in a black and white shirt consistently enough in his first full season; even if he remained a valuable player.
After a solid start against Manchester City on Sunday, Pardew believes the foundations have been laid and that Sissoko can become a real force in the English game.
The Newcastle boss said: “Yes, I do. I think Moussa is a player who can grow.
And I think he can improve in the Premier League and for France. He showed a few flashes in the World Cup and that was very pleasing for us.
“He’s a huge character as well as a very important player for us and I think we will see more of his character this year. He has a winning mentality and we are looking forward to a big season from him.”
The fact there are so many French players in the Newcastle squad should also help Remy Cabella to settle in quickly.
The £7m buy from Montpellier has already dazzled fans with his skills and has spoken of a belief that he will only get better in the weeks ahead.
Pardew said: “He is gifted with the ball. He can manoeuvre his body very quickly. He can move your weight and then take you the other way fast and therefore it makes him difficult to mark and defend against and he will be a player who will open the door for us – hopefully on many, many occasions. He will create or score a goal.”
Newcastle hope to further add to their squad, but after landing nine new players over the summer the need is not seen as urgent. There is still a wish to add an extra striker, while Manchester City defender Micah Richards is an option if the price is right.
If Richards, whose teammate Scott Sinclair has also been linked with Tyneside, did arrive in a deal worth around £5m then that is likely to lead to the departure of a defender.
Newcastle, meanwhile, are looking for Facundo Ferreyra to force his way into Pardew’s thinking for Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa.
The Argentine, a loan arrival from Shakhtar Donestk, was overlooked for a place on the bench for the opening game because of a slight injury but scored his side’s first goal in Newcastle Under-21s’ 3-3 draw with Bolton.
He also tried to claim the second which was credited as an own goal by Andy Hughes and then Sammy Ameobi added a third.