Why Newcastle’s engine room holds the key next season

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?

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.

48 thoughts on “Why Newcastle’s engine room holds the key next season

  1. great to see a lead on the last thread 😆 😆 helps doe-heeds like me,this is the area for me is very important area more so than a striker imo we are very short of a bit of class when Shelvey was missing it was glaring how much we lack in that area

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  2. For me Diame should be moved back to midfield, rather than no.10 or 2nd striker as he has been used this season.
    I think the 2 realistic midfield targets this window will again be James McCarthy from Everton or Fabian Delph from Man City.
    But I reckon Delph will be more surplus to requirements than McCarthy – and I think Everton will want around £15m for McCarthy, where City would probably take £7-10m for Delph. I would personally prefer Delph anyway coz I think he’s better offensively that McCarthy.

    Sigurddson would be a great signing, but if Swansea stay up he won’t be coming to us – and if they go down I think there will be a number of clubs wanting to sign him up.

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  3. Does everyone reckon Rafa will stick with the same formation in the PL? The opposition are a different class and there are many different systems being played. Several sides have several formations and lots of players in the PL are used in a variety of different positions.

    Maybe he stuck with the same formation because of the players at his disposal and the way the bulk of Championship sides play?

    Who knows. There will likely be big changes if he stays and either way, all of midfield needs addressing. We need more flair on the wings, more bite and more creativity in the middle. I tend to agree with Sharpy that the defense is not an area we are desperate in. We need flair and goalscorers.

    Watching MOTD there is some scary opposition in the PL. I would be happy just to finish above the relegation zone without ever being in real danger this season. Maybe 12th or 13th would be a great start and something to build on with a view to Top 10 the following season and then maybe Top 8 the year after, where would probably find our level and stay static pending more awful mismanagement or a big investment and a bit of luck.

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  4. Sham I agree with all that you say but do you think Rafa will be content with just above the drop zone and 8th there after ? think he could be way too ambitious for our owner tbh .

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  5. shamrock:
    Does everyone reckon Rafa will stick with the same formation in the PL? The opposition are a different class and there are many different systems being played. Several sides have several formations and lots of players in the PL are used in a variety of different positions.

    Maybe he stuck with the same formation because of the players at his disposal and the way the bulk of Championship sides play?

    Who knows. There will likely be big changes if he stays and either way,all of midfield needs addressing. We need more flair on the wings, more bite and more creativity in the middle. I tend to agree with Sharpy that the defense is not an area we are desperate in. We need flair and goalscorers.

    Watching MOTD there is some scary opposition in the PL. I would be happy just to finish above the relegation zone without ever being in real danger this season. Maybe 12th or 13th would be a great start and something to build on with a view to Top 10 the following season and then maybe Top 8 the year after, where would probably find our level and stay static pending more awful mismanagement or a big investment and a bit of luck.

    Sham – I think the players he signs will maybe give an indication of what formation he might go with.

    It’s hard to say how the 4-2-3-1 really worked this season coz Shelvey & Hayden both were missing quite a bit – and Colback weakened that midfield. I also think that Gouffran and Atsu have been weak, and not having a real no.10 or quality cover for Gayle – so yeah, lots to do this summer really.

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  6. Maybe Kim but we are no bigger than any of the Top 7 or 8 (in terms of potential) and I dont see where the big money comes from that is required to get us ahead of them.

    Everyone seems to be upgrading stadiums etc, so we cant really claim to be a big fish in any capacity as things stand. The Rafa effect might be a boost for us in the next couple of years, but the Top 6 for example all have top notch managers. There is no massive edge that we possess over them.

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  7. WBA are 8th without really pulling up any trees this season,and Leicester are 11th after a shocking start to the season.

    Personally I think if we strengthen correctly in the summer – that area of the table should be more than realistic next season.

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  8. A cup win won’t bring the club any more income significantly, while top 4 spot will. I think that would be a selling point for Rafa when talk to Ashley. For Ashley, 8, 13, or any other ranking means the same to him, as long as not the bottom three.

    4231 is a very flexible formation. It can be changed during the game to 4141, 4411,433 etc. Rafa only use 2 forwards in one situation: we are losing and 15 minutes left. Yes, you can see it as a conservatism. He always emphasis on balance.

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  9. True about West Brom, but then they are a fairly well established and steady side these days. You could argue the likes Southampton, Stoke, Leicester and West Ham should and possibly will be pushing for Top 8 next season too. We are weak in all areas, but certain positions are more important to strengthen over others for this summer. I just dont dont see a Top 10 finish. Even with Rafa at the helm and 100 million quid.

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  10. I agree about the revenue funrafa. Butvthen that has been the case for the whole time Ashley has been here and he has never gunned for it. Its also a big risk because the money required to break the top 4 is ridiculous. Look how much Man Utd have spent recently. I would not blame Ashley for not pumping silly money into the club from his own coffers or crippling the club with huge debts just to have a shot, but no guarantee of making the top 4. 100 million quid, even if we had that much this season, is not a significant amount any more.

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  11. Sharpy: I wrote on the previous thread that West Brom are 8th but 14 points behind Everton in 7th. Everton have a plus 20 goal difference and everybody below has a negative GD. There is now a two tier PL with the top 7 miles ahead and the rest fighting for scraps.

    You may mention Leicester, but that was a miracle. And again, as I mentioned previously, without the second coming of Brian Clough that will never happen again.

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  12. I also said in the previous thread that not a single player in our squad would get in any of the top sixes first 11. Therefore a budget of 100 million is not that much in reality especially when Man U, Man City and Arsenal will all be spending 200 million to add to already strong squads. The other 3 of the top 6 will all spend more than 100 million as well.

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  13. We missed the boat. When all the sponsor and marketing money came in and the expansion of the PL brand to China, the Far East and the USA was happening, we were ****. 10 years ago we were on par with Spurs, now they are self financing an 800 million pound stadium and have a very good team.

    I am not a big Spurs fan but they have been managed well during our time of mismanagement. COYS, I fckin hate West Ham.

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  14. Here’s another thing. Man U are paying Jesse Lindgard 100k a week, Jesse Lindgard. Jesse Lindgard is being paid more than our highest paid player. Jesse Lindgard.

    That says it all about the gulf that we would have to bridge in order to compete at the upper echelon of the PL.

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  15. or top 6, in that case the club will have Europa to play, not much more revenue but the club’s status will improve and buyer will have to pay more. Otherwise I don’t know what Rafa is going to talk to Ashley.

    with 100 million quid, a push for top 6 is doable under Rafa. You don’t have to believe me. I just hope we all will have a chance to see it.

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  16. MU is not doing things smartly. They are relying on spending $. That is Mourinho’s style and good for him, MU has that kind of money. We should not compare us to them.

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  17. Why not funrafa? They would be direct competition if we were aiming fir the Top 4 or even 6.

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  18. Though I agree the Leicester thing was a miracle of sorts it did show that a cohesive well set up/balanced team can exceed expectations with out always throwing loads of money at it.

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  19. shamrock:
    Why not funrafa? They would be direct competition if we were aiming fir the Top 4 or even 6.

    I guess I did not express myself clearly. We should not compare us to MU in terms of the way doing things. They rely on spending $, we can’t rely on that. However, a certain amount of transfer funding is definitely necessary.

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  20. Well either way funrafa, it should be a great season if Benitez stays. Anything other than a relegation fight is a good season for me – and if we were to push the top 6 like you say – well that would be sensational.

    Just looking forward to being back in the big time ?

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  21. Rafa will need a star (or potential star) for forward, a potential star in the middle, all others will be no body youngsters. He will build a star team. That is his way of doing things.

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  22. Only because it help’s the club more financially. If Rafa could take us to that level like Sir Bobby did I’d be truely proud. Its a once in 20 year chance I know. I would still be proud if we won a cup but we will always be the underdogs. F.A cup, EFL or europa.

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  23. shamrock:
    Well either way funrafa, it should be a great season if Benitez stays. Anything other than a relegation fight is a good season for me – and if we were to push the top 6 like you say – well that would be sensational.

    Just looking forward to being back in the big time

    I am just looking forward to seeing our games again. I think I have seen about 6 this year because there is only one Championship game selected each week. They show all of our PL games here on regular cable that you don’t need a sports subscriptions for. Or I can go down the pub. Even the 3pm Saturday games are live.

    Just making you jealous 🙂

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  24. kimtoon:
    Though I agree the Leicester thing was a miracle of sorts it did show that a cohesive well set up/balanced team can exceed expectations with out always throwing loads of money at it.

    You got it right there mate we are not trying win the lge,I think with Rafa we will finish mid-table he’s no mug his tactics is normally spot on he will how to deal with the big spenders in the lge it might not be pretty at times but IMO we will be fine just hope the fans don’t except to much,Ime just wondering who he brings in to work with him I think that will be his next move before players if talks go ok

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  25. Icedog: You got it right there mate we are not trying win the lge,I think with Rafa we will finish mid-table he’s no mug his tactics is normally spot on he will how to deal with the big spenders in the lge it might not be pretty at times but IMO we will be fine just hope the fans don’t except to much,Ime just wondering who he brings in to work with him I think that will be his next move before players if talks go ok

    Aye, needs quality around him then I think a top notch forward and winger plus a quality playmaker in mf if we can. Try and bring in 1 or 2 more in jan window. We also got a lot to ship out too.

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  26. I don’t think there is any doubt at all that Rafa would target finishing top 4 … but not next season. Not the season after either. Or the one after that.

    The best we can hope for is to first of all be the best of the also rans, then work our way into being the worst of the best. It’ll take a miracle to get anywhere near the top 4 in the next half a decade, unless something outside of football intervenes, like a major war, a collapse of the financial world, Europe revisits the 1930s, aliens destroy London …

    [Editorial Note (just so you all know): this is not meant to be a sarcastic comment]

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  27. Agreed Bris. I hope people dont expect roo much in the coming seasons.. We dont want a repeat of turning on a top manager aka Wor Bobby.

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  28. Sky News
    By Mark Buckingham

    SIR BOBBY ROBSON has hit back at the Newcastle United boo-boys, claiming the club’s supporters have short memories in calling for him to be axed.
    The Magpies have endured a torrid start to the new season after crashing out of the Champions League and are still awaiting their first Premiership win of the campaign.

    The lacklustre start to the term has seen Robson come in for heavy criticism from a section of fans, who want the veteran boss to be relieved of his duties after four years at the helm.

    But Robson has slammed the supporters calling for his head by insisting they have forgotten how much work and energy he has put in to rebuilding the club.

    Robson wants the fans to remember his role as the club’s saviour and is confident he can kick-start this season, if he is handed that precious commodity in football – time.

    “This club was shipwrecked when I arrived,” Robson told The SP. “Staff here weren’t worried about going into the First Division, they were worried about going into the second.

    “They could see this club getting relegated twice. The criticism isn’t nice and it isn’t right.

    “It hurts, it’s not pleasant but it’s the way things are these days. The game lives on this sort of thing. I know it comes with the territory but I did not expect it at Newcastle.

    “We need more time, like everybody does, and the management and the players believe if we are given that time then we will turn it around.

    “I am not ****ing or complaining about it and I don’t look worried and I don’t sound worried because I don’t think there is much here to worry about.”

    **********************************
    Very similar start for Rafa too. A club shipwrecked and with a potentially bleak future in the lower leagues. I hope fans remember this in a couple of years if Rafa has has us doing well then has a slow one.

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  29. I did read something that in terms of TV money the PL is the most egalitarian. Most of the money is paid out as a right of being in the league with not much merit money. The stats were 1.5 to 1 in favour of the big clubs. This compared to 2 to 1 in Germany and I believe 5 to 1 in Italy. In Spain, where the big clubs are allowed to strike their own TV deals, the ratio of money paid to big clubs compared to everyone else is 8 to 1. Of Course, that is mainly Real and Barca which explains why La Liga is usually a two horse race with only Simeone and Rafa breaking that grip.

    The PL was bought by oil and Oligarchs though and their teams became popular just as the league’s international popularity exploded. So now they have scooped up all of the commercial money which means it is still a bloody 2 tier league. I agree with BrisV. When he is not being snippy he usually makes a lot of sense.

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  30. Off the top of my head, follow the money:

    Man City – oil
    Liverpool – hedge fund
    Spurs – hedge fund
    Man U – Florida Sport Franchise/Finance
    Chelsea – Oligarch
    Arsenal – Oligarchs

    NUFC – Billionaire, but made his money by hawking cheap brands made in sweatshops and tried to run the club the same way for 10 years.

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  31. I think mid table is a realistic possibility.
    However, going back to the article – we definitely need a DM or a strong box to boxer like Rubens Cheek. I’m not impressed by Delph for instance. He’s a bit like Ireland or Sinclair who couldn’t cut it at City. McCarthy’s too injury prone. So maybe he has to go abroad for that one. It will be the most interesting summer for a while.

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  32. Just watching the Rafa interview on the bbc and he says some interesting things.
    That we have to manage fan expectation for the coming season
    That he hasn’t talked any cash figures yet or demanded any
    That he see’s himself here long term

    Seems to me only our owner can balls this up now then.

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  33. Simon:
    We can only hope Kim, but everything sounds positive, just need him to be backed

    yeah mate, and he should raise a bit through player sales as well.

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  34. Sure he will get enough through owner and sales to stay up, just depends how high he hopes to take us

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  35. Money from Sales? Can’t see much myself unless he cuts Mitro and Gayle loose. I’m not a fan of Gayle especially in the PL (15 goals in 3 years at Palace) but a lot of CCC clubs would like him. Money back on Diame, Hanley maybe. We’ll get nowt for Sels, little for Gouffran or Lazaar, Gamez. Maybe £25m for the lot.

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  36. It is interesting to see the spread, or lack of it between the teams in the premiership. The top six will exceed 70pts. Everton will be in the 60’s. nobody else will top 50. currently 8th to 16th is just 8 pts. The margin of avoiding a relegation fight and a comfortable mid table finish is very small. Obviously a target of 40 pts brings safety, but a target of 50 gets you best of the rest.

    Rafa can aim for that in his first season and realistically so. However, we are short of the players everybody else is mentioning. I thought Hayden, Shelvey, Diame to be a reasonable engine room, but none of them are no 10s. Ritchie is Ok on one wing, but we need another. Gayle is not a top EPL striker, but useful back up. Hopefully Rafa knows the market.

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  37. Aye nice to hear Rafa say he could be stay ten years if talks go well with jabba,my fear how many faces jabba has,he can change his mind on a whim,that back stabbing Carr wants kicked out,how come he always has jabba ear? when Rafa has only had one meeting with him,Rafa is a much better judge of a player than Carr ever will be

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  38. Managing expectations is key from all sides. I hope the fans can stay realistic and just enjoy the stability and occasional runs at some form of success that Rafa has the ability to bring us. We have no right, in club size, capacity, turnover, history or personnel to be an established top 6 side. If we can achieve that at some point via hard work, unity, careful management and investment then fantastic. Until then, lets just trust Rafa to try his best to get us there, knowing it will likely take years and a few ups and downs along the way.

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  39. What are Hull playing at, losing at home to Sunderland when they are desperate for points and should be fighting for their lives?

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  40. shamrock:
    What are Hull playing at, losing at home to Sunderland when they are desperate for points and should be fighting for their lives?

    Just shows mate that some players cannot handle pressure when push comes to shove,Spurs couldn’t handle y/day,let’s hope Hoots team buckle as well

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