Three reflections on Newcastle's fifth Premier League win in a row:
That was the phrase co-blogger Phil used to describe Moussa Sissoko's form of late, and he continued his excellent play by notching the winner against QPR. It wasn't just the goal, though. Sissoko seemed to treat the captain's armband like a talisman, setting up a pair of excellent chances and using his strength and speed in a much more controlled way than he typically has in his time at the club.
Sissoko has been one of the more vexing figures at Newcastle since joining in January 2013. As we have seen in spurts, and in his appearances with the French national team, he has world-class ability. That's made his generally inconsistent play in black and white all the more maddening. For now, I'm trying not to worry about the transfer window in January, and hoping just to enjoy a talented young player starting to realize his potential.
Two other standouts on Saturday were starting wingers Sammy Ameobi and Rémy Cabella. It's hard to imagine two more different options on the flank: Ameobi towers over most defenders and uses his straight-line speed to blow past them, while the slight Cabella is more trick than quick. But in their own ways, both were extremely effective. I've always thought that Ameobi deserved more of a chance, and that his failure to establish himself was mostly injury-related. On the other hand, Cabella has really stepped up his play after being benched early in the season. It seems like he's given more thought about how to turn his endless stepovers into something constructive. See the one-two with Sissoko in the first half, where it looked like he was just dithering on the ball, but turned it into a shot from a good position. Of course, the highlight was the insane spin move to set up Ryan Taylor outside the box. No one else in the current squad could have pulled that one off.
Tears for Taylor
Whatever you think of him as a player, it was a real shame to see Taylor have to leave the match in tears after a half hour. Taylor, much like Jonás Gutiérrez, epitomized the team that finished 5th in 2011-12: certainly not the most skilled player, but one who worked hard and filled different roles to benefit his more talented teammates. He even spent some time scouting upcoming opponents during his two-year recovery from multiple knee injuries. According to Taylor's Twitter account, the setback was not a serious one. Clearly, though, it makes one wonder about the future of his playing career. And if it turns out that he isn't able to be a regular contributor on the pitch, I hope Newcastle gives him an opportunity in a scouting or coaching role.