FOUR players at risk of dropping out of Rafa’s XI at Burnley despite our latest win

Newcastle are flying high and incredibly sit seventh in the Premier League, after already collecting 14 points from our first 9 games.

A lot of credit has to go to the excellent tactical nous of Rafa Benitez and the outstanding work rate of this crop of honest players. Newcastle are performing well above expectations and an element of this has been the ability of Rafa to tweak the side for the game in front of us; Ciaran Clark being the latest to be dropped from the team in place of Florian Lejeune.

What other changes may Bentiez consider over the coming weeks, or even Burnley away on Monday night?

Joselu

The Spaniard has scored a few goals and initially, surprised a few following his low key arrival from Stoke City for £5m. However, goals and performances levels have tapered off since what we thought was a big moment for him to score against Liverpool. Several good opportunities were squandered against his former side and he looked lacklustre against both Southampton and Palace.

That being said, he has a good work ethic and puts himself about up top. Whereas, when Gayle comes on, he doesn’t seem to be able to make the ball stick or put in the same sort of shift. In our current system we need someone to hold up the play which would leave Mitrovic as the only real alternative. He has work to do to convince Benitez, but may earn a recall to the starting 11 if the Spaniard can’t get going up top.



Perez

Perez was ineffective against Palace and has not been threatening enough this season. He has a good work ethic and this, along with ‘creating space for others’ are the reasons Benitez mentions for keeping him in the side. His goal at St. Mary’s would have been a welcome relief to get up and running this season and I hoped it would give him confidence for Crystal Palace, however he was as bad as I’ve seen him this season. With his time on Tyneside now entering his fourth season, Perez has just not kicked on after his early promise.

The number 10 role is a key priority for us in January, takeover or not. Perez needs to improve to justify his longer term inclusion. Mo Diame came on for the last 25 minutes in place of Ayoze last Saturday and did well, however it remains to be seen if Benitez will opt to start the ageing Senegalese midfielder from the start anytime soon.

Atsu

In context, after being hit and miss in a lower league last year, Atsu has had a positive start to the season. The nippy Ghanaian was excellent in some of our opening games but his form has dipped a little, with him having the tendency to drift out of games more than Matt Ritchie on the other flank. It is one of the areas of the squad where we have a few options to come in, so he will need to get back to his early season form to keep his place in the team.

Jacob Murphy has looked poor when called upon this season as he finds his feet, but he is a young player with plenty of promise who arrived as our most expensive summer signing, so you would imagine he will get a proper run at some point this season. Rolando Aarons would also be an exciting alternative, however he still has work to do before he’ll be considered at first team level?

Shelvey/Hayden

If Rafa persists with Perez, or doesn’t feel Shelvey can play in the number 10 role, then both Hayden and Jonjo are surely at risk or being usurped in the starting XI by Mikel Merino.

Hayden has improved lately and of course scored a crucial goal in our draw down at Southampton. You get the feeling Benitez likes him in the side as the defensive screen; after all, organisation and being solid has been the cornerstone of our success this season.

After returning from his ban, Shelvey has shown glimpses of his undoubted talent. The through ball for our goal against Liverpool was an example of the penetration his passing offers us going forward. He has followed that up though with a sloppy display against Palace last weekend, with a few too many wayward passes silly fouls given away. He needs to stay disciplined but if playing well, it is likely Hayden is under threat from Merino, who has to start.

Burnley are a gritty team, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Rafa start the more combative Hayden and Merino next Monday, seeing Jonjo miss out?

Let us know your thoughts as ever. Is there anyone else in the team whose place could be under threat in the coming weeks?

(Fancy writing for us? Send any articles/ideas over to us at [email protected] & we’ll get back to you!)

About Simon Riddlesden

Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.

35 thoughts on “FOUR players at risk of dropping out of Rafa’s XI at Burnley despite our latest win

  1. It is good we have some options and few injuries. Last years Rafa would think nothing of switching 3 of the players out.

    We have to break up Joselu and Perez as there is simply not enough threat up front. I don’t really care who we swap out, a fit Gayle, a hopefully calm Mitro or even Moreno pushed further forward. I don’t want Diame as a forward as that has rarely worked.

    The rest of it will take care of itself. Atsu has not been bad enough to be dropped (yet) and the others have not shown enough to replace him. If either Murphy or Aarons in Rafa speak “trained well” he may surprise us and put one in.

    If Moreno is not shunted further forward, I have no problem with selecting 2 from 3 of him Shelvey and Hayden. Similarly, I would not worry who is selected between Lejeune and Clark as they have both shown enough to warrant inclusion.

    What I do want, no matter the selection, is a quicker hook if things are not going according to plan or even if we need just to push on. I would like to see a change in the 60th minute and not wait until the 75th or 80th minute. From watching all of the matches there has been someone in each game who is below par, so switch them out a bit earlier.

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  2. I would like to see MBemba at left back again. I hope we don’t sell him because I think he has done well when he has played.

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  3. Something flying under the radar is the QPR situation. They have been in court for 3 years fighting a Financial Fair Play fine of 40 million and just lost. I am sure they will appeal. But guess who was in charge during this time, yes Honest ‘Arry who almost bankrupted Pompey and opened up bank account in the name of his dog but beat tax dodging charges by pleading he was not only ignorant but also a bit stupid. He was smart enough to hire a top barraster though.

    QPR are currently 17th in The Championship. This could send them under if it is upheld.

    I always thought ‘Arry was dodgy but somehow he keeps getting jobs and even when he is sacked he keeps his TV jobs and newspaper columns.

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  4. And perspective new owners already doing a better job than Jabba. They appear to be conducting due diligence…

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  5. Whatever happened at that Chinese Communist Party Conference? Supposedly they would ease foreign investment restrictions which would allow more PL football investment and that in turn might impact NUFC. Did that ever happen?

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  6. Eric Sykes:
    Whatever happened at that Chinese Communist Party Conference? Supposedly they would ease foreign investment restrictions which would allow more PL football investment and that in turn might impact NUFC. Did that ever happen?

    Half way through I believe mate,they don’t rush these things lol

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  7. So, basically Rafa said that Mitro and Mbemba are still in the squad but there are players ahead of them who will make the team and/or bench before these 2 get their chance. If fit, Gayle is ahead of Mitro. Rafa didn’t say it, but I think Mitro would move up if Perez and Joselu don’t perform soon.

    Mbemba seems pretty far away from a game as Rafa said the other 3 centre halfs are ahead of him and Manqillo and Gamez even at full back. I am not quite understanding this one as I thought Mbemba played well at left back and provided our greatest threat going forward.

    It is Rafa though, so he could easily start one of them if they train well.

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  8. It was far from a ringing endorsement for Mitro and MBemba and reading between the lines I would say they are gone in January unless they can force their way into the team through training well or injury. I know I am making fun of Rafa about training well but that does seem to be a major determinant of who he picks.

    Also, the Scousers, who love Rafa, said that sometimes his selections baffled them so no matter what he says he may do something completely different.

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  9. Has everybody actually looked at what Rafa did in his 6 years at Liverpool? He was sacked by Valencia after they won the Europa League. Then:

    Lost the League Cup Final to Chelsea
    Won the Champions League
    Finished 3rd in the PL
    Won the FA Cup
    Lost the Champions League Final to Milan
    Made the Champions League Semi-final
    PL runner up to Ferguson’s Man U winning 11 of the last 12 games but missing out to a forward line of a young Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez

    Win % = 55%

    No wonder the Scousers love him.

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  10. Eric Sykes:
    Has everybody actually looked at what Rafadid in his 6 years at Liverpool? He was sacked by Valencia after they won the Europa League. Then:

    Lost the League Cup Final to Chelsea
    Won the Champions League
    Finished 3rd in the PL
    Won the FA Cup
    Lost the Champions League Final to Milan
    Made the Champions League Semi-final
    PL runner up to Ferguson’s Man U winning 11 of the last 12 games but missing out to a forward line of a young Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez

    Win % = 55%

    No wonder the Scousers love him.

    In the season they finished 2nd they lost only 2 games all season.

    Rafa has consistently over achieved relative to his resources. This season so far isn’t unusual for him. He really is one of the best managers in the world. Top 5 easy! He’s at Newcastle – crazy or what?!!!!

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  11. Stuart: that is about the 5th time it has happened with Bilic. He is on the brink and given 2 games to save his job and then he goes and wins. It’ll happen again.

    Next time, or this time, they might have someone lined up. Maybe Mancini?

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  12. Stuart79: In the season they finished 2nd they lost only 2 games all season.

    Rafa has consistently over achieved relative to his resources. This season so far isn’t unusual for him. He really is one of the best managers in the world. Top 5 easy! He’s at Newcastle – crazy or what?!!!!

    That was Ferguson’s best team. They still had the likes of Scholes, Giggs Neville and Keane, plus Ferdinand and Vidic and that forward line. It is probably the Premier League’s best ever team and Rafa got within 4 points.

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  13. i see on of the crooks of FIFA has been jailed in the USA its a shock he only got 8months thought it would be a hell of a lot more likely he will out in three months,bah humbug

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  14. The Chronic have asked all of their journalists whether Perez deserves a place in the team. The consensus is that there is no one else and he is learning the number 10 role and that takes time.

    Where else has Perez played apart from number 10? He has drifted wide but couldn’t be said to be a traditional winger. He hasn’t really played midfield or number 9. Have I missed something, or has Perez’ role usually been as the second forward?

    Maybe Rafa is asking him to press more but that is different to saying he is learning the number 10 role.

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  15. All of The Chronic journalists said exactly the same thing about Perez. It makes me wonder if there is any critical thinking going on at that paper. No wonder they churn out the same stuff day after day if they all think the same way and never question their consensus.

    There is an attitude of never question Rafa. That is wrong. You are allowed to question him, I sometimes do. Just put in the caveat that Rafa’s record speaks for itself and it will likely turn out OK anyway.

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  16. I really would try Merino as the number 10. He seems to have the workrate that Rafa demands. I would not go with Shelvey as he is too slow in Rafa’s system. We know Rafa will play 4-2-3-1 and this is the team I would like him to play against Burnley, even though I know he wont and will probably be the same one that started against Palace because they have had 9 days rest:

    Elliot

    Yedlin Lascelles Lejeune Mbemba

    Shelvey Hayden

    Ritchie Moreno Atsu

    Mitro

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  17. I have sort of picked the team who I think have played the best with the exception of Mitro. I picked him because of lack of alternatives – Gayle may still be injured and Joselu doesn’t have the fire power.

    Perez hasn’t been bad but we need more goals and Burnley are a cagey team so this might be the time to try to play more on the front foot.

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  18. well thats us beat on Monday then as ERIC mate Merson says we will win against Burnley,or is he going to get one right for a change ill let Eric call it? 😆 😆

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  19. I don’t believe Merson for a second. I think he has looked at his predictions table and realizes it makes if look a bit stupid, as if he needed any help. The actual result doesn’t matter, this will get his prediction points up nearer reality which is what he cares about.

    I think it will be a low scoring draw. Probably 1-1. That’s what my head says, but screw that 3-1 to the Toon.

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  20. You shouldn’t be too far off the actual points total if you just go with form. The top 6 are likely to win, especially at home and some teams are good away like City and Spurs so pick them anyway.

    The bottom teams will probably lose or draw. Of the middle teams there will be more home wins and draws than losses.

    If you have a look at the matchups, home versus away and also go with form your table should look like the actual table at the end of the year. Scores are really hard to predict and there will always be surprises. But you should not have a Rafa team bottom or Liverpool not losing in 18 months unless you are an idiot.

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  21. I know it is all a bit of fun but you can also apply a bit of logic and not be biased. Getting the scores correct is almost impossible. I thought Citeh would hammer Stoke and that Stoke would probably hardly get out of their own half so I thought about 4 or 5 nil. Correct, except the actual score was 7-2. Betting on the score is a mugs game in my opinion but that’s what the betting sites ask Merse, Owen and Lawro to do.

    Enough about the three stooges.

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  22. I don’t think I have predicted a single NUFC loss this season but that is because I am biased, but especially because I do not want tempt fate. If you had asked me to put $100 of my own money on it I would have bet for Spurs and Liverpool to win. I also thought we would have lost to one of Brighton and Huddersfield but not both. I probably would have come out just ahead or even on these bets.

    It is difficult but you do not have to be an idiot about it – Merse.

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  23. “The National” which is a newspaper in UAE are reporting that Amanda Stavely is looking to replicate the success of Man City with a bid for NUFC. She had a £1.5b bid for Liverpool rejected so turned to NUFC. Interesting line is that there’s supposed Middle East and Chinese investors involved with her.

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  24. It won’t cost £1.5b to buy NUFC, get them up to Liverpooland past then and start winning. You’d also get the thrill of building it and seeing it happen.

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