Mikel Merino has not been starting for Newcastle for some time, and that’s been a little odd since he was one of our best players in the first half of the season.
We bought Mikel from Borussia Dortmund for just £6M in late summer and he looks like a steal for Newcastle.
But manager Rafa Benitez has explained why Merino has not been playing much since he recovered from the back injury he picked up last October.
Mikel Merino and Rafa Benitez shaking hands
This is how Rafa has explained the situation:
“He is fine now, but he is one of the players who did not have too much match fitness, which is why we wanted to get him game-time out in Spain,”
“Jonjo has been doing well, Diame has been doing well, and so it has been difficult for Merino and Isaac Hayden.”
“But they have to keep competing. That is it.”
“It’s not just the injury now, which is fine. Merino is not playing so much because the others are doing well.”
“He has to compete and make sure he gets back in the side. Always we want to sign the best players, and when we have the best players here then someone has to be on the bench.”
“A player on the bench may not be good enough to start, and then all fans will ask: ‘Why do you have him? He is not good enough.’
“What we want is fans to say about players who are on the bench: ‘Why is he not playing? He is really good.’ “
“But it’s because another player is doing better than him at this time.”
“If you want to improve as a team, as a club, then you have to have good players on the bench.”
“This will create a debate between the fans: ‘Why is he not playing? Why is he playing there? Why isn’t he in the team?’”
“But when you do not have a strong squad, it means the players on the bench are not good enough – and that is bad for the team.”
“That for me is a positive thing, that you have a player you know could replace the other one in the side – and that increases their level,”
“We need players who can dictate the tempo of the game, manage the game for us, and when Mikel was playing well, Jonjo needed to work harder.”
“Now Jonjo is doing well, so Mikel has to work harder. That’s the good thing about competition.”
That’s an excellent philosophy from Rafa, and it’s exactly why he will be bringing in some good players in the summer to further increase the competition for places.
Mikel knows what he has to do to get back into the side and we’re sure he’ll be doing exactly that.
Let’s hope we have a very good bench next season!