With additions and large investment needed next season, Rafa will no doubt be analysing where on the field Newcastle can improve. The middle of the park is an area where we struggled at times this season. Just what changes need to be made to Newcastle’s engine room?
Shelvey form and no backup
Jonjo Shelvey has had an excellent season. Must pundits argue he is the most talented player in the Championship and a return of 5 goals and 8 has been impressive from a deeper but creative role. His main strength isn’t necessarily in numbers though but his insistence of always looking for a forward pass and marshaling the tempo of a game have been key to our success.
Questions remain over his temperament after some bans and red cards though. He was also subject to some inconsistent displays with Swansea last time he was in the top flight. Although there areas he can improve, he is our best central midfield player currently and by some margin.
The problem Newcastle have is not having any sort of backup for Shelvey. Our other options do not have the creativity of guile of Jonjo. This is an issue that needs to be addressed this summer.
The problem at number 10
With Bentiez clearly favouring a 4-5-1 formation, the number 10 role is a key position at Newcastle. Mo Diame was favoured for the role but poor form and a return of just a handful of goals has led to Perez getting the nod towards the end of the season. Despite a few goals recently, Ayoze has failed to kick on from his early promise. Siem De Jong will return from a loan spell this summer but a dreadful injury record, combined with the indifferent form of Diame and Perez, means that this is a position that must be strengthened this summer.
Gylfi Sigurdsson has been linked and would be a fantastic coup but more likely options would be the likes of Tom Cairney from Fulham, who has had a great season at Fulham. Whoever comes in, a lack of firepower this season from midfield needs to rectified to succeed in the Premiership.
Holding midfield options
With Shelvey looking like our mainstay in midfield and a new number 10 likely to be recruited, defensive midfield is an interesting discussion too. At the start of the season and especially in the Championship, it was expected Jack Colback could bounce back after a poor season last time out and recapture some of the form he showed when he first joined. Niggling injuries, unnecessary bookings and an alarming tendency to give away dangerous free kicks have led him to being ousted from the starting 11. A future for him after this season is hard to envisage, unless he would accept being a squad player at best.
He was replaced by Isaac Hayden, who has enjoyed a strong debut season on Tyneside. At 22, he will only improve. Tough in the tackle and athletic, he has even added the odd goal to his game too, the most recent example being an excellent strike down at Cardiff on Friday.
If we are to really prosper though we need more strength in depth. Ideally another centre midfielder would arrive to push Hayden, someone like Fabian Delph at Man City perhaps. Although not as big a priority as attacking midfield, we still need some investment here too, whether it is backup for Shelvey or a new player to replace/push Hayden, or possibly both. A trio of Delph, Shelvey, Sigurdsson/Cairney would be a big improvement for next season. Better quality in midfield will be central to a good next season next year, providing better cover for our back four and more service to our strike-force.
What Midfield would you like to see next season?