How to sum up the mood of Newcastle supporters right now? Angry, sad, bemused, past caring. All appropriate.
This was a club that entered the summer full of optimism, with dreams of a takeover and rumours of superstar signings ready to move to Tyneside. Instead, popular manager Rafa Benitez has left, and many more are expected to follow him out the door.
Contrast that with Leicester. Brendan Rodgers arrived in February, and has got his side playing attractive football from the outset, reconnecting with the fans who had grown tired of his predecessor Claude Puel.
The ambitions of both clubs were summed up on Thursday, as Leicester completed the signing of Ayoze Perez for £30m. Newcastle were content with the money, whilst Leicester are looking to continue their resurgence on the pitch.
What can Perez offer next season? Let’s take a look.
A Player Coming Into His Peak
Last season was Perez’s fourth Premier League campaign and it was his best to date.
When the Spanish attacker first joined the club back in 2014, he made a positive start, scoring seven league goals in his maiden season. Fast forward three years, and he netted eight, whilst also providing four assists. His all-round game was progressing.
In 2018/19, he went one step further. 12 goals and two assists meant that he was directly involved in 14 of Newcastle’s Premier League goals, double the number from his first year.
10 – Ayoze Perez is one of just four players to score at least 10 Premier League goals in 2019, along with Sergio Aguero (12), Jamie Vardy (12) and Sadio Mane (14). Fox. pic.twitter.com/8phMldkFHT
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 4, 2019
The numbers are not stunning, but they represent development and his ability to strive for more from himself. With his 26th birthday arriving at the end of this month, Perez is moving in to his prime, so expect him to only get better.
He Loves a Link-Up
Without Perez and Salomon Rondon last season, Newcastle would probably have been relegated. The two forwards scored 23 of Newcastle’s 42 league goals, ensuring that the side comfortably avoided the drop in the end.
As the season progressed, the understanding between Perez and Rondon became Newcastle’s main strength. Indeed, some were wondering if they had developed a telepathic relationship. Perez seemed convinced himself.
7 – Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon have combined for seven Premier League goals this season – the most by a Newcastle duo in a season since 1999-2000 (Alan Shearer and Nolberto Solano, eight goals). Heroes. pic.twitter.com/1jcJB6gevS
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 27, 2019
“I didn’t need to look. I just knew. It is just in your mind; a memory”, Perez explained to the Chronicle Live when talking about how he always seems to know where Rondon will be.
Perez’s new strike partner will be Jamie Vardy, who is known to work well with those around him in the final third. Riyad Mahrez and James Maddison spring to mind. Perez could be the next one on that list.
He’ll Defend From the Front
Rodgers demands intensity from his teams, and Perez fits perfectly in to this style of play. No attacker made more interceptions than him last season.
Winning the ball high up the pitch is crucial, as sides try to capitalise on defensive errors, launching an attack before the defence can reset.
Perez showed himself to be the master of that last year. This will not have gone unnoticed by Rodgers, as he looks to take Leicester to the next level in 2019/20.