With the season well underway Newcastle are performing well and in the top half of the table, with ten points already collected. Benitez staying has been key to our success, but we’ve looked at some of the players who’ve played a big part in our season so far and those who’ve not had the impact they may have wished for seven games in .
Mikel Merino has been a real a find for NUFC this season and our star performer. The Spaniard has been central to our success, excelling the middle of the park with his superb passing and ability to break up play. At just 21, he has a bright future ahead of him so let’s hope Newcastle can tie up his permanent transfer as soon as possible.
Christian Atsu has started the season well with a goal and an assist, playing a big role in some of our wins so far. He was especially good against West Ham and Stoke at SJP and after being inconsistent in the Championship last season, he’s been a surprise package so far. The test will be if he can keep this up over a 38 game season, but he has been a real plus point for us thus far.
Jamaal Lascelles started the season with a real battle to retain his place in the XI, never mind keeping the captain’s armband. He excelled in the short period in the Premiership last time and it is that form that has returned this season after an up and down campaign in the Championship. He is back to his physical best after recovering from a hernia and, after the injury to Lejeune, has cemented his place back as a key player for us. He has even added goals to his game and as ever, is a strong leader on and off the pitch.
Matt Ritchie has just continued on from his superb campaign last year. Outstanding work rate, great delivery and brilliant defensive work, Ritchie has epitomised everything good about us so far this season. His end product especially has been really impressive so far and has quashed any doubt that he can cut it at this level.
Rob Elliott has cemented himself as Rafa’s number one and has made some important saves. He hasn’t put a foot wrong and with no new keeper arriving, despite clear efforts to land one, he looks set to be the mainstay in the NUFC goal for some time yet. After recovering from injury and the decent form of Darlow last year, Elliott must be delighted with his season so far on a personal level.
Dwight Gayle – Our number 9 has had a poor start to the season. He started in the first XI against Spurs and looked lightweight in our preferred 4-2-3-1 formation when up against better opposition than last year. Joselu has since arrived and claimed the striker role ahead of Gayle, and with Dwight offered to buying clubs only for it to fall through the last day of the window, his long term future looks bleak. Gayle was pivotal in getting us up but unfortunately may again find himself not able to get regular top flight football once more.
Mo Diame just doesn’t look dynamic enough for top flight football. Despite previously thriving in the Premier League with former clubs, he now looks leggy, lethargic and doesn’t offer enough threat going forward to justify a place in the team. When he has come on, we’ve seen been brief and unimpressive cameo appearances. At 30, maybe age has caught up with him, but longer term, I expect him to move on.
Jacob Murphy arrived for £12m this summer after showing real promise for England under 21’s in the summer. Speaking to some Norwich fans recently, they felt he had talent but was still a bit raw. Perhaps it is this that has been the key factor in Rafa not giving him much game time yet – with a quiet display at Swansea when he got a start hasn’t helped his cause. Harsh to say he has been a ‘loser’ so far as I think he has potential and it is early days for a young and exciting player; but he hasn’t hit the ground running just yet.
Alexander Mitrovic continues to be left on fringes by Benitez. He scored a nice goal as a sub against West Ham and lashed one home against Forest in the cup, but with Joselu pushing him further down the pecking order, he didn’t even make the bench last time out. A fan favourite but one Rafa clearly wants to move on. Fine form for Serbia may just pocket NUFC a better fee.
Rolando Aarons has returned to fitness and scored a great foal in the League Cup before again going off injured. That perhaps sums up his Newcastle career so far. He really needs a run of games to get going again, but hasn’t been picked in matchday squads in recent weeks. With Ritchie and Atsu doing well it’s been hard for him to force his way into Rafa’s first team plans, but hopefully this isn’t yet another frustrating season for the promising winger.
Let us know your thoughts as ever.