The Newcastle United supporters have been celebrating in the Transfer Tavern this week after their side moved a step closer to ensuring their Premier League survival with a narrow 1-0 victory over Huddersfield at St James’ Park.
Rafa Benitez’s side moved 7 points clear with their victory over David Wagner’s struggling Terriers on Saturday afternoon following a relatively tense affair on Tyneside. Relegation six-pointer clashes such as the one between Newcastle and Huddersfield are often cagey affairs which are settle by a single goal, and this one proved to be no exception to that rule.
Ayoze Perez was the unlikely goal-scoring hero as he netted only his 4th goal of the season after Kenedy showed commendable composure before squaring the ball to him on the edge of the 6-yard line. Aside from Perez and Kenedy, two of the heroes of the day were Jonjo Shelvey and Mo Diame who continued to impress in centre-midfield.
The aforementioned pairing have established a formidable partnership in recent weeks, and their performances have been a pivotal reason for the clubs progression up the table. Their displays have forced Mikel Merino to play nothing more than a bit-part role for The Magpies since the turn of the year, and his lack of opportunity in the first-team has supposedly provoked interest from Athletic Bilbao according to reports in TEAM Talk.
Merino (valued at £9 million by Transfermarkt) rapidly became a firm fan-favourite at the club following his arrival from Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of the season and he deservedly earned a permanent move after just 8 weeks at the club. However, the quality of his performances have been on the decline following his promising opening to life on Tyneside, and his failure to replicate his early season form has been met with concern by our regular punters clad in black and white.
Although his dip is a notable problem, it must be considered that the Spaniard is just 21-years-old and will require time and patience to adapt to the demands of the Premier League. With the right level of first-team opportunities Merino possesses the ability to become a genuine asset to the club at the heart of midfield, so selling him this summer would be a foolish decision from a long-term perspective.
Naturally, if Merino decides his future would best be served away from St James’ Park and that he wants to return to Spain, then Newcastle should let him go, but if he is happy to fight for his place and prove himself at the club then Benitez should resist any forthcoming offers for his services.