Yesterday’s embarrassing loss to Watford highlighted just how crucial certain players are to Newcastle’s success.
Number 1: Jamaal Lascelles
While Lejeune and Mbemba are arguably better defenders, nothing comes close to Lascelles’ defensive organisation and communication. This can be seen in yesterday’s match where Newcastle’s defence was all over the shop. The problem with the combination of Clark and Lejeune is, while they’re good defenders, there’s no communication between them and when that happens, defensive ability goes out the window. The whole of Newcastle’s defence has struggled while Lascelles has been injured because there’s nobody ready to step up and be that vocal leader.
Number 2: Mikel Merino
Mikel Merino, the golden boy. The Spaniard’s popularity on Tyneside exploded overnight due to his top performances and his love of the club and the people around it. Merino can do the job of both Shelvey and Hayden, making important tackles in his own half and then bombing forward to make defence-splitting passes. With Merino in the team, Newcastle have a win percentage of 50%; without Merino, Newcastle have a win percentage of 17%. On top of that, the only game Newcastle have won without Merino starting is Crystal Palace at home when Merino came on and scored the winner. The stats don’t lie, Merino is crucial for this team.
Number 3: Jonjo Shelvey
Finally, we have another midfielder Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey brings something to the team that no other player does. His ability to spot a pass and to make a pass is second to none. Shelvey’s ability to break down deep defensive blocks is absolutely crucial because nobody else in the team can do that.
Having all three of these players is incredibly important because they cannot be replaced easily. When you watch Newcastle with and without these players, the difference is very easy to see.
Feature image credit: Ben Sutherland