ALAN Pardew says Moussa Sissoko is one of the first names on the teamsheet at Newcastle United – whichever position he plays.
Sissoko has been deployed in a number of roles by United since joining the club in January 2013.
He has played behind a striker, on the right-hand side of midfield and in the centre, but has sometimes found consistency hard to come by.
The Frenchman has played a key role in Newcastle’s run of three wins in a row, and scored a superb solo goal in Wednesday’s League Cup triumph at Manchester City.
He is expected to line up in an advanced midfield role in this lunchtime’s game against Liverpool at St James’s Park, although Pardew believes his best position is on the right.
The Newcastle boss feels Sissoko was instrumental in last week’s comeback win at Tottenham Hotspur, and has described the 25-year-old as a “top, top player”.
He said: “I think a driving force from midfield is something that he does very well. The right-hand side of midfield, if we didn’t need him through the middle, is probably his best position.
“I don’t think, with the team at the moment, that he’s going to play out there when (Gabriel) Obertan is playing so well, so it’s about him adapting his game.
“I think he was probably the changing force of the Tottenham game.
“We’ve talked about this and that, (Ayoze) Perez and that, but Moussa was the one who really changed it when he went into a deeper role.
“He’s got that ability to change the game, and I do think he is a top, top player here, and one of the first names on the teamsheet.”
The pressure has eased somewhat on Pardew thanks to Newcastle’s recent run, and he is expecting a buoyant atmosphere at St James’s Park today.
When asked if he expected protests about his role to continue, Pardew said: “I really can’t focus on that sort of stuff because it’s hard enough, this job, without that pressure.
“To take that pressure away, even a little bit, is important, and I think our stadium will be really up for Liverpool. I hope we don’t let (the fans) down.”