Rafa Benitez likes to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation and uses two holding (defensive) midfield players who are key to his teams.
For one thing they help shield the back four as we saw in the final few games of the season, as the Newcastle’s defense even started to look fairly solid for the first time in four years.
So getting in the right defensive midfielders for Newcastle – a role played by Cheick Tiote and Jack Colback in the final games of last season – is important to Rafa.
Isaac Hayden – defensive midfielder
And that’s what 21 year-old new signing Isaac Hayden comes in.
The lad has shown he’s a true professional in his short time at the club and he is very keen to improve under the world-class management of Rafa Benitez.
That’s why he has come to Newcastle and while he says he can play center-back and right-back he prefers to play in defensive midfield.
That’s the position he played on loan last season at Hull, when he helped Steve Bruce’s side get promoted.
And Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger seemed to identify Isaac’s real strengths as a holding midfielder when he said this about the 18 year-old back in September 2013 after a League Cup game against West Brom:
“I like his strengths in the duels” “I like his capacity of concentration and I believe as well that technically he is very focused to do well.”
“He is committed and at half-time I told him to behave well because he was on a yellow card and he did that well in the second half.”
“He is maybe not a creative player but everything he does is intelligent.” “I like his intelligence and all these qualities together makes me choose him.”
Having good concentration and being good in the tackle are important in the defensive midfield role, where the main job is to get the ball and give it to more creative players to start the attacks.
Being creative is not a specific requirement for defensive midfield but the ability to read a game well is one.
And it remains to be seen if Rafa thinks Cheick Tiote is expendable.
Maybe Rafa will think Cheick still has a couple of years left on Tyneside to help Rafa get newcatsle winning games.
But on the other hand Tiote may go the way of Papiss Cisse and get a lucrative deal to play for massive wages in China at the end of their careers.
Isaac will not in any way be guaranteed a place in defensive midfield at Newcastle, but we do expect the player to improve in his first season on Tyneside under the watchful eye of Rafa Benitez.
That improvement could also be massive given Hayden’s attitude and determination to develop his game.
He looks potentially like a tremendous buy for the club.