JONAS Gutierrez reckons Newcastle United have uncovered another Jose Enrique in buccaneering left-back Davide Santon – even if the Italy left-back needs to brush up on his defensive work.
Santon was given a gradual introduction to life in England by Alan Pardew but has been an ever-present since helping to avert a defensive crisis in the wake of injuries to Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor.
He has certainly added an attacking dimension to Newcastle’s play, pushing forward at will to support United’s offensive raids. But there have been times when he has looked exposed too, not least in the back-to-back defeats against Fulham and Brighton.
Gutierrez acknowledges there remain aspects of the game that his new left flank wing man must learn, but he will forgive a player as talented as Santon his foibles. Considering he is the man charged with doing much of the defensive donkey work to back up Santon, it is a telling testimonial.
“He loves to get forward. He sometimes has to know the moment to go and the moment to stay back,” he said. “But he is young, he will learn that. Sometimes he can go, sometimes he should stay. He's so young, has too much energy and maybe he just wants to show what he can do.
“For me, that is incredible. With an offensive player you just have to give him the ball and he will do the rest. He has amazing ability.” During the course of this up-lifting season Gutierrez has become something of an unsung hero.
At first he aided Ryan Taylor in adapting to the demands of the unfamiliar left-back slot and now he is providing guidance to a young player that United hope will go on to recreate the impact of his left-back predecessor Jose Enrique. Gutierrez sees similarities in the pair.
“I don't mind sharing the defensive responsibilities with him. I like helping him,” he said.
“I am finding it good. He's an offensive player as well – like me. When we have to defend we try and hold it all together. But I think he's a really, really good player.
“He is only really, young. The Premier League is very tough – it takes a long time for you to get ready for it. But he has made a very good start.”
Another player catching the eye is the returning Demba Ba, who notched his 16th goal of the season to down Aston Villa on Sunday. Alongside Papiss Demba Cisse, the Senegalese has picked up where he left off before leaving for the African Nations Cup – and Gutierrez is glad for his return.
“When Demba left he was in brilliant form and we missed him. Now he is back and he scored again so it is like nothing has changed,” he said.
“Papiss came on because of an injury and it is really good that he did well too but the really important thing is came on and worked really hard for the team.”