Saturday’s game against Brighton is going to be crucial for both teams in the battle to beat the drop.
With our next four games after this being Leicester (a), Man Utd (h) Chelsea (a) and Wolves (h), it really feels like we need three points this weekend. It’s a depressing mindset to be in heading into the sixth league game of the season, but sadly that is where we find ourselves in this day and age.
This game has trouble written all over it from the point of view that we are going to be expected to take the game to Brighton, when we are clearly at our best letting the opposition have the ball and playing on the counter attack.
With that in mind, surely this game is exactly the type of occasion where Jonjo Shelvey needs to prove his worth and get us on the front foot?
I’ve noticed on social media that more and more Newcastle fans are losing patience with the former Swansea star, but I’ve give him a start on Saturday. Here’s why..
I wrote after the Tottenham game that Longstaff and Hayden are our best partnership in central midfield, and for most games I absolutely still believe that to be the case. However Shelvey is at his best when he is in a team that enjoys more of the ball, and surely against a relegation rival at home this has to be the case on Saturday.
It also must be considered that Longstaff is still finding his feet this season after only recently returning from a serious knee injury. He currently isn’t as indispensable as he looked at the back end of last season and particularly struggled in our home games against Arsenal and Watford – although here’s hoping he’s back to his brilliant best soon.
I also wrote recently that one of of my biggest criticisms of Shelvey, and indeed the whole team when he plays, is how it all seems to be about getting him on the ball, and how he comes back and takes the ball off the centre back’s toes, slowing us down and making us predictable to play against. He needs to be getting on the ball in areas of the pitch where his undoubted quality on the ball can hurt teams, with us needing a player who can make us of Almiron’s pace in behind and get good balls into dangerous areas for Joelinton; who’s been starved of service in and around the box so far.
It’s down to Steve Bruce and his coaching staff to find that formula, but if Shelvey can get on the ball in the right areas, his range of passing can unlock a Brighton team, who seem to be still trying to find their identity under new management.
Graham Potter is trying to play a more expansive style of football than his predecessor and it could actually suit us. The last two season’s home games against Brighton were actually two of the dullest games of Premier League football I’ve seen played at St James Park, so here’s hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.
It is getting to that make or break stage for him now. If he can’t pull the strings and make a real impact in these sort of games, you have to question where he fits in, but the criteria is all in place for Shelvey to be a key player for us this Saturday,
Sadly with Newcastle United and indeed Jonjo Shelvey its never that straightforward, but hope springs eternal!