CHRISTIAN ATSU admits the current season could be ‘make or break’ for his Newcastle United career, and concedes a lack of consistency means the Magpies are still to see the very best of him.

If his initial loan spell is included, Atsu is now in his fourth season as a Newcastle player, but a tally of 52 senior starts highlights his failure to hold down a regular starting spot throughout his time on Tyneside.

The Ghanaian has generally had someone ahead of him in the battle for a first-team place, but with Allan Saint-Maximin struggling with a hamstring injury, he has featured in Newcastle’s last two matches and looks set to retain his starting position when Steve Bruce’s side visit Anfield on Saturday.

Having entered the final two years of his current contract, Atsu accepts it is time he started living up to the lofty reputation he established when he was coming through the ranks at Chelsea, and having shown glimpses of his quality in each of his last two outings against Tottenham and Watford, the 27-year-old accepts adding a greater level of consistency to his game is key.

“I think this is going to be an important season for me,” said Atsu. “I have been here for four years now – I have had some good times and played some good games, but I still don’t really think people have been able to see the best of me, certainly not on a consistent basis.

“That is the challenge now, to make sure this season is different. I am very happy with the way the team is playing and the way we are trying to press teams – I think that will help with my game.

“The biggest thing for me this season is to be consistent. I’ve had some good performances with Newcastle, but I need to start being more consistent and keeping my standards at the same level through the season.

“That is probably what has held me back in my time at Newcastle so far – I haven’t been consistent enough – and I am working as hard as I can to try to improve that. I feel as though my fitness is getting better, and hopefully that will help me when I am on the pitch.”

Atsu also feels Bruce’s tactical tweaks will be to his advantage, with the Newcastle manager keen to see his wide players playing higher up the pitch than was often the case under his predecessor, Rafael Benitez.

Whereas Benitez wanted his wingers to provide a second line of protection to the full-back playing behind them, Bruce would rather see them trying to get onto the front foot, an approach that finds favour with Atsu.

“I am playing a bit further up the field under the new manager, and I am happy about that,” he said. “I think it suits the way I play. The manager has said he really wants me to press defenders, and I think that suits me. I think it will help me create things because if the opposition lose the ball, I am already in front of it and that makes it easier to get forward and attack. Hopefully, that will mean I am assisting more.”

Having missed a big chunk of pre-season through injury, Atsu is also pleased to be back to full fitness.

“I feel like I’m getting better,” he added. “I’ve been working hard to get back from my injury, and feel like I’m getting stronger with every training session and game. I feel like the sharpness is starting to return.”