If there’s one notable attribute of Newcastle’s new signing, South Korea captain Ki Sung-yueng, it’s that he’s extremely reliable – rarely giving the ball away. The manager Rafa Benitez is all about marginal gains and as much as he’d prefer to play a possession game, the current squad collectively lacks the ability to execute this.

In Ki, who signed a two-year deal on a free transfer on Friday having left Swansea, Benitez now has a player he can call upon to bring calmness and composure to the midfield, who is comfortable on the ball and keeps it simple. It’s an attribute Newcastle have been crying out for.

Over the course of the 2017/18 season, Newcastle recorded the third worst pass accuracy in the Premier League (72.3%) and the second fewest successful passes (4,538). By definition, the more you retain the ball the fewer opportunities the opposition may have to score – in theory. Barcelona have proved over recent years how well this theory can work, but it’s not just about possession alone. Benitez, speaking in 2013 as Napoli manager: ‘Balance is the key to a team working well. There are teams that follow Barça’s style, lose the balance and play football that many say is attractive but through which they never end up winning. Rayo Vallecano have 51% possession to Barça’s 49%, but Barça end up winning. It’s about creating a blend of possession and effectiveness. My philosophy is about neither pure and simple direct football nor possession. It’s about a mixture.’

Frustratingly for Benitez, there is currently an imbalance which he needs to address, and Ki is only the beginning of that. Newcastle recorded the third lowest possession percentage in the league with an average of 43.8% overall, and 44.8% at home. Only Stoke and West Brom had poorer statistics, while Ki’s Swansea were better at 46% average overall.

Amazingly, despite this perceived lack of control in many of our games (indeed this transpired as actual lack of control given some of the defeats) Newcastle were still able to provide the effectiveness that Benitez craves.

In terms of chances created, Newcastle were 11th best in the Premier League with 158 on a spectrum that saw Chelsea on top with 279 and Everton bottom with only 127. This is excellent efficiency with the ball, often asking more questions than the opposition who may dominate, but actually fail to create.

As impressive as these numbers are given the circumstances, Benitez is a perfectionist and is always striving for improvement. Ki’s arrival should allow Newcastle to enjoy more of the ball and provide another outlet for those players who are perhaps not as comfortable in possession.

Ki has already cited his previous playing relationship with Jonjo Shelvey, which should help him integrate quickly: ‘It was the best season of my career with Jonjo. I know him very well and how good he is. Hopefully we can help make another good season.’

Ki will bring a passing range to the team (last season he averaged a passing length of 18.28m which exceeds the range of Diame’s 15.74m and Hayden’s 15.33m), and – don’t grumble – backwards passing. This points to pragmatism and security in his approach to the game, and if it allows us to retain possession more often, then this shouldn’t be viewed as a negative – especially to the more impatient pockets of fans we all sit near to in St James’ Park. He’s an intelligent footballer who, at 29, will increase the average squad age up from 26.1 years old – the second youngest in the division last year.

He may only be one piece of a much larger Rafa jigsaw that is far from completion, but Ki Sung-yueng’s is a shrewd and meaningful addition that smacks of logic.

Adam Widdrington – @thetoonnetwork

Statistics obtained from www.squawka.com