Stick with Cheick

Posted by Marc Duffy

Ian Horrocks/Newcastle United/Getty ImagesCheick Tiote has received criticism from Newcastle fans, but his return to form is imperative to Toon's future success.

While Cheick Tiote has been playing for the Ivory Coast in South Africa at the African Cup of Nations, Newcastle United's fortunes on the pitch have taken a significant upturn. I'm sure the steadily growing band of Tiote knockers will see this as a sign, but I think we all know that it has been the introduction of our new French legion that has created this resurgence, not the Ivorian's absence.

James Perch has played well in the past two games -- steady away, solid and unspectacular which is just what that deeper midfield role requires. Perch deserves to keep his place in the side even if Tiote returns in time for the trip to Tottenham on Saturday. But in the longer term I firmly believe that the new French boys will help take Tiote back to the levels we saw last season. While 'Perchinho' is a great squad player, he lacks that little bit of extra quality that make a top player. I couldn't imagine him completely dominating a game as Tiote did against Manchester United last season.

Tiote has lost a lot of supporters this season and his market value has plummeted. The cause of this has been his indifferent form which follows a regular cycle:

Poor --> Better --> Good --> Injured/Suspended --> poor

And so it goes on.

Once Tiote returns to the side, a solid injury and suspension-free run will put an end to these doubts. Yes, he has been guilty of regularly hanging onto the ball too long and this has caused his defence trouble once or twice, but many of those times he's been hamstrung by a serious lack of options in terms of players to pass to. In Newcastle's extended run of terrible form it became more and more obvious that players weren't confident enough to face up for a short pass hence the number of 'hoofs' on display. In the absence of Yohan Cabaye this was painfully obvious -- Vurnon Anita seemingly being the only one who wanted to take the ball on. Tiote's game suffered for this, although he also has to take responsibility for his actions.

Another doubt regularly raised about Tiote is his discipline. People are quick to label him as a 'liability'. He definitely collects too many yellow cards but we can't forget that he's received only one red card in over 70 games (the same number as Fernando Torres!) and even then many argued over whether that was a fair decision. He is prone to unnecessary tackles, but again, these happen less frequently when he's in the middle of a decent run of games.

Tiote is only 26-years-old. Top players like him don't just become bad players overnight. Patience is something rarely associated with football fans and that's as true on Tyneside as it is anywhere else. More patience with Tiote and we will see the rewards. I really fancy the idea of Tiote patrolling the area behind Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko allowing them to terrorise at will.

Cheick will rise again. I'm certain.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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