Rafa Benitez now has a few big decisions to make ahead of Saturday’s game with Bournemouth – will he hand Ki and Schar rare starts after their outstanding performances from the bench last weekend?
Ironically, the introduction of both in the win over Watford was forced and not tactical, with them replacing Lascelles – who came off with a shoulder problem at half time – and Shelvey, who limped off just five minutes into the second half.
The difference they made was huge, however.
It’s not yet known whether Lascelles and Shelvey will be fit in time to face Bournemouth, but, even if they are, there’ll be plenty justifiable calls for Ki and Schar to be rewarded with starts.
Ki changed the game on Saturday. He demanded the ball, moved it quickly, showed urgency and real quality in everything he did – with his whipped set piece deliveries being bang on the money every time.
As for Schar, I’ve never seen a centre-back be substituted on and take the game by the scruff of the neck as he did. He bullied Success (who had been a real handful up until that point), won all his battles and showed superb quality and composure on the ball, giving us that ball playing ability that we’ve lacked from the back in Lejeune’s absence.
In fairness, playing around with the defence may be a risky move and I can’t see him replacing the skipper or Fernandez (who’s been one of our standout performers), but he’s definitely given Rafa something to think about.
As for Ki, he has surely earned a start given how much he changed the game from midfield. If Shelvey is fit to face Bournemouth, we may even see Benitez drop Diame – although an attack minded midfield pairing of Ki and Shelvey could be asking for trouble against a high energy Bournemouth side who will not be shy going forward.
What would you do? Do you believe Ki and Schar deserve starts after Saturday’s displays from the bench?