Matt Ritchie, since joining from Bournemouth in 2016, has primarily been deployed on the right wing where he could cut inside and use his powerful left foot. Here he provided Newcastle with a threat that the opposition had to contend with for two and a half seasons.
Rafa and Ritchie – I need you on the left, Matt
This season due to a change of formation and a pressing need on the left, Matt has found a new role to shine in at Newcastle.
When moving to the left wing-back position initially in December, it at first appeared that this was just a stop gap due to injuries and lack of cover.
However, it became permanent for the rest of the season due to an injury to Florian LeJeune and the inability of loanee Antonio Barecca to convince Rafa to replace him.
Matt was asked if this had been his best season and this is what he told the Shields Gazette:
“I don’t know about that.” “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very pleased with the way I’ve adapted to the new regime.”
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, and learnt a lot, but you can’t say it is my best season.”
“The Championship was a different season – we were expected to win,”
“I’ve been pleased with all three seasons. There’s always room for improvement, and I want to strive for more and improve in areas of my game. I still want more.”
“I’m really enjoying it (new defensive role),”
“We’ve spent quite a lot of time playing with a front three, with Ronny (Salomon Rondon), Miguel (Almiron) and Ayo (Perez).”
“And if you’re playing as a wide player in that formation, you have to be a real threat in behind.”
“My strength isn’t really running behind. But with the team we have now in the Premier League, we’re a bit more counter-attacking.”
“I enjoy playing wing-back – I get a lot more of the ball than I did higher up the pitch.”
Ritchie has made 125 appearances at Newcastle scoring 22 goals and adding 25 assists. While most of the goals came in his inaugural season in the Championship, 15 of his assists are over the past two seasons.
While we think Newcastle do need to sign a top quality left back this summer, Matt Ritchie’s versatility and desire have provided Rafa with the ability to get the best out of Newcastle this year.
Matt Ritchie will turn 30 years old in September and has two years remaining on his contract. It remains to be seen what will happen with a new contract but he should continue to provide excellent options for Newcastle next season.