Last Sunday’s display at Brighton was a pretty tame one, with several poor performances contributing to our first defeat in three games in the league.
With this and the tough test to come against Liverpool in mind, we think Benitez could axe one or two of the following players for this Sunday’s game at St James’:
The Spaniard has a tendency to run around and put in a shift for the team, yet offer far too little in attack for a player in a position of such importance. Against Brighton he had the odd nice moment, but they were too often followed by a lack of final ball. He has started every game so far this season, but his performance at Brighton may seen Benitez start to lose patience with him. I know several Newcastle fans certainly have!
The combative midfielder has generally enjoyed a solid looking partnership with new boy Mikel Merino so far this season, however he put in a highly ineffective display at Brighton last time out. With Jonjo Shelvey waiting in the wings, Hayden’s name on the team sheet could be under threat this weekend. If he keeps his place in the team it’s likely to be down to his superior defensive qualities to those of Shelvey’s and the fact we’re playing such an attack minded side. Either way, I expect Benitez to be seriously considering a recall for Shelvey in place of Hayden after his below par performance last weekend.
The ex-Stoke striker put great shifts in against West Ham and Swansea, but he’s developed a habit of missing a few too many big chances since. I’ve liked the look of his all round play and feel he offers us a focal point up top, but Benitez may just opt for a more reliable finisher like Gayle in a game where we’ll have to take our chances.