Newcastle United supporters have been pretty buoyant in the Transfer Tavern during the current international break such was their side’s fine run of form prior to the fortnight interruption, having lost just one of their previous six Premier League games.
Rafa Benitez’s men were just two points clear of the relegation zone after losing 3-1 to Manchester City back in January, but they have since then won two and drawn three of their six matches to move up to 13th place in the division. The North East giants produced a sensational display to get the better of Manchester United last month, and they made it back-to-back victories at St James’ Park last time out by easing past fellow relegation contenders Southampton, in turn moving five points clear of the Saints who currently occupy the final relegation spot.
As such, there have been many delighted Magpies fans in the Tavern in recent times, several of whom are hoping their team can continue their fine run of form between now and the end of the season, and thus preserve their top-flight status.
In the meantime though, there has been much for our resident Newcastle supporters to discuss, not least recent reports linking them with a summer move for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.
And were the Magpies to indeed land the 24-year-old, it could spell seriously bad news for £9 million-rated Newcastle midfielder Mikel Merino (as per Transfermarkt).
Ultimately, the 21-year-old has struggled for regular football at the North East giants since returning from injury back in November, with the Spain Under-21 international mustering just eight starts in their last 18 Premier League games.
He’s hardly a surplus to requirements, but having appeared in each of their opening nine matches of the campaign, it’s clear that the midfielder has fallen down the pecking order in the last few months.
Some of that has been down to his own struggles for form, yet some has also been as a result of the fine efforts of the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Mo Diame, and Isaac Hayden, all of whom have improved in recent times to suggest that they are at the forefront of Benitez’s thinking ahead of Merino.
Yes, he is still only 21 and Newcastle turned his loan deal into a permanent one just weeks into his time at St James’ Park, but he’ll be wanting regular football like he had at the start of the season, and with Athletic Bilbao reportedly interested in a summer move, he could well be tempted.
And he may be tempted even further were Ozyakup, another central midfielder, make his way to Newcastle – that is only likely to push down even further down Benitez’s pecking order, and thus restrict his gametime even more.
Thus, luring Ozyakup to St James’ Park would be seriously bad news for Merino and his Newcastle prospects, ahead of what could be a pivotal summer for the 21-year-old midfield sensation.
Newcastle fans… what do you think? Let us know!