Newcastle United

Newcastle: Benitez may be a managerial wizard but he needs to solve Shelvey conundrum

Newcastle: Benitez may be a managerial wizard but he needs to solve Shelvey conundrum

Newcastle were pretty woeful during last nights defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates last night, with the side never looking like getting back into the game following the opening goal.

They gave possession away too easily throughout, lacked creativity and never looked capable of stringing passes together in a bid to unlock an Arsenal side that looked confident from the outset.

Fans must have lost count at the number of times Rafa Benitez’s side tried to play cross-field or diagonal balls, only for them to be off target — usually being yards short of a teammate — and just being swept up by a red shirt.

The stats do not make pleasant reading, with Newcastle only managing 286 passes to Arsenal’s 700, but only 185 of those were accurate, compared to Arsenal’s 600. That gave Benitez’s side just 65 per cent pass success — and most of those were across the back four, or negative passes back to them.

The one player with the vision and ability to consistently find a key ball, is Jonjo Shelvey, and the sight of him sitting on the bench, not even being brought on in the second half, will have even the most ardent of Rafa fans, questioning his decision.

It seems a strange situation. Shelvey was the first choice midfielder, and even during times when his form dipped, he was still able to find passes that none of his teammates could.

Then, of course, he got injured, as did Ki Sung Yueng and Mo Diame, which gave Sean Longstaff his chance, along with Isaac Hayden.

The young duo performed wonderfully well together, and so it made sense that when the elder trio returned to fitness they would not walk straight back into the starting lineup.

But then came Longstaff’s injury blow.

Ki was brought in to replace him, then Diame got a chance. But it has been noticeable, that Hayden has not performed as well with either of these two, than he did with Longstaff.

But whereas Diame and Ki both got opportunities, Shelvey has been limited to ten minute cameos, if he is lucky.

The Magpies desperately needed some inspiration from the middle of the park last night, and yet, Shelvey was left on the bench, with Ki coming on for Hayden, and doing a poor job when he did.

So the question is: what has happened between Rafa and Shelvey?

Clearly, there must be a reason why he is not getting game time, and the excuse of building fitness up following his injury spell, does not wash anymore.

Of course, we are not privy to what goes on behind the scenes, but with the rumours and speculation surrounding the former Swansea midfielder and West Ham refusing to go away, it makes you wonder if there were some knocks on the manager’s door in January asking about moves away.

But regardless, it is about picking up points first, and internal club politics second. After all, Hayden has been clear, open and adamant about wanting to leave, but he is still playing games.

It is a difficult thing for fans to work out, and after none of Diame, Hayden or Ki did themselves any favours last night, it will be very interesting to see if Benitez turns to Shelvey against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

With three points being an absolute must, the Geordie fans will be hoping so.

What do you think of the Shelvey situation? Should he be starting in the Newcastle midfield? Join in the debate and let us know your thoughts…

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