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Rafa Tries To Explain Why Some Top Players Not Subs On Saturday

With players like Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden playing so well for Newcastle over the last nine games or so Rafa can’t leave them out of the starting eleven.

And since nearly all our players are now fit there had to be some surprises with who didn’t make the bench on Saturday against Huddersfield.

And there were with Muto, Shelvey, and Diame nowhere to be seen.

It’s a difficult situation for the manager, but Rafa is so strong-willed and will play the best team available in every game through the end of the season.

Newcastle do have an opportunity if we can put a good winning streak together to beat the 44 points we reached last season.

Rafa Benitez with Jonjo Shelvey
Shelvey didn’t make the bench on Saturday

And having won three of our last five league games things are starting to look up.

This is what Rafa has said in the Chronicle on his team selection on Saturday:

“My problem now is that the players who aren’t in the team have put me under pressure to make decisions.”

“It’s a pity but obviously you can pick only 18 players and some have to wait. Jonjo, we’ll see if he’s ready for Tuesday.”

“Obviously the match fitness is an issue at this stage.”

“Longstaff did well. Obviously, against 10 players he has more time on the ball and he was managing this time the ball really well.”

“His shot that hit the bar was a real pity because it was a great effort.”

“He’s (Muto) is doing well and training well.”

“In his case, we needed another one just in case to play as a second-striker but we’re pleased with him, he’s very positive.”

“He’s always working really hard, but he has to keep working hard to get in the team.”

We could see some rotation on the bench for tomorrow night’s game but we still expect the team to be unchanged from Saturday against Burnley tomorrow night.

It’s another vital league game that Rafa and the lads will go all out to win.

Wonder if we can somehow keep Isaac Hayden at the club in the summer, given how terrific he’s played since December?

Just a thought.

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Comments welcome.

71 comments so far

  • simon376

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:02 AM

    Comment #1

    Rob, think there has to be either a sacking or resignation of Sarri today after that incident

  • lesh

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:05 AM

    Comment #2


    If there really is a grain if truth in you claiming you attended Dame Allens, QEGS Hexham,
    King Edward VI School Morpeth, Duke’s School Alnwick and Kings Tynemouth it really does prove the toffs’ adage that education’s wasted on the working class!

  • Jib

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:10 AM

    Comment #3

    The old trawler dry dock ?

  • cyprus

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:13 AM

    Comment #5

    Rafa, give Sari a call man. Gotta feel for that guy.

    On selection problems, well that’s good news. From a purely neutral perspective (if I had one), the two MF s you have on now are our best duo. Check out results AND performances.

    Muto I feel for, but again, the current 11 have ALL stepped it up a notch. Long may it continue.

    Of course, this is Newcastle 😉

  • kc2012

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:15 AM

    Comment #6

    Wonder which people always put us down to lose the upcoming games on the poll.

    The unwashed have sent spies to the blog

  • Nostradamus the Geordie

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:23 AM

    Comment #7

    KC we have had the unwashed since the blog started, but back then they would actually let us know.

  • Ben Afri

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:29 AM

    Comment #8

    I must admit, I have been extremely frustrated with Perez. I thought he was frustrating and had not yet merited that arrogance he seems to have developed lately with his finger in his ears and spending more time whinging, sat on his bum than actually doing anything of significance. Then I remember seeing someone on this blog (I don’t remember who) suggesting a week ago that maybe with the arrival of Almiron, we might see an improvement in Perez’s game. I admit thinking, “no, I still view him as one of our weakest links.”

    But after seeing him linking up so well in that front three, I’m excited to see us, and particularly Perez and Miggy play creating real problems up front. I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt this much like a school boy who can’t wait to get home to play with his new toys.

    Whoever suggested that we’d see an improvement in Perez, my apologies that I don’t remember who it was, but well spotted sir! I know it has only been one game, but it seems I was wrong. And happy about it 🙂

  • Toon Tang

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:29 AM

    Comment #9

    Indeed ‘daffy’ being prime example..

  • martoon

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:39 AM

    Comment #10

    I’m wondering whether to start a new prediction game for when Miggy has a so-so game (he’s bound to have one now and again) who the first poster will be to come on and say he was a waste of money and Rafa doesn’t know what he’s doing. My money is on Catchy or Bladey :mrgreen:

  • RobLeenio

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:44 AM

    Comment #11

    I’ve voted for a draw Vs Burnley. I nearly went for a win but I think Rafa will see this as one that’s too important to lose and not take any chances.

    He’ll be going for a moment of inspiration up front and vigilance at the back. I think this one could be to tight to call with all three results possible but I would have taken 4 points from these two fixtures and still would.

    I’ll be very happy to be wrong though and see us win by a couple.

  • one fine day

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:45 AM

    Comment #12

    A lot seem keen already to right off shelvey or at least end his Newcastle career etc.
    Think about it . His dip in form could be down to ( stupidly trying to cover up / carry an injury likely since the opening weeks and those horrible fixtures .
    Not just that he was a different player towards the end of last season when he had gayle to pick out .
    We had just josalu to hit on many occasions with rondon struggling for fitness.
    Shelvey coming deep to collect as the back line was under the Koch and then trying to hit the Hollywood which was never going to work without players running at pace and getting behind ….in comes almeron and the whole dynamic can change when a team plays on the front foot .
    Only thing that frustrates me after seeing his debut is we didn’t have him in in Jan 1st .Looking at the way the FA cup has gone we could have been a good shout and we will only improve towards the end of this season .

  • one fine day

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:47 AM

    Comment #13

    Martoon ,
    Can I have a Tenner on ilovetoon8787 ?

  • RobLeenio

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:50 AM

    Comment #14

    I feel for JonJo who had easily been or best creative player over the last couple of seasons. I do wonder if the style the team is now playing with is one he can adapt to.

    Not writing the guy off just wondering if he’ll actually be able to make his way back into the team this season. If not, I can see him wanting a move and the club allowing it.

    Speculation, nothing more. Obviously you don’t let quality like he has leave without careful consideration, I just wonder if his wages and transfer fee could be better used on a top striker, Rondon for effective.

  • RobLeenio

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:50 AM

    Comment #15

    *for eg…

  • RobLeenio

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:53 AM

    Comment #16

    One fine day I agree his long range passing is excellent but we don’t need that from him with Lejeune in the team. That’s why I say he needs to adapt. Can he be effective further up the pitch? I’m not sure he’ll get the chance to prove it.

  • dexter53

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:53 AM

    Comment #17

    I can deffo see Longstaff captaining England one day. Whether or not hell be playing for us at the time is another matter.

  • cyprus

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:57 AM

    Comment #18

    One fine day,

    Good post, but I disagree. As someone above said re Perez, I’d love to be proven wrong, but for me, Shelvey is now definitely down the pecking order. You want a cool head and silky skills? Ki. A fighter who harasses opposition? Diame. Sean is, simply, a better all round player. Hayden has been outstanding too.

    For me, Shelvey was always a luxury we can’t really afford to have. Oftentimes, with him on, we’ve lost the MF, although it’s not necessarily his fault.

    I’ll give him the Hollywood pass, however.

  • Jib

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:58 AM

    Comment #19

    Popular as it is to blame Ashley for everything
    it now looks as if the procrastination over Miggy’s
    transfer was from the Atlanta end.

  • posada

    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:59 AM

    Comment #20

    Pace. when we think of pace we think of getting through on goal. Knocking it past someone and using pace etc.
    The thing that impressed me most about Almiron and pace was this. We would work the ball to our wide players and for the first time as far back as I can remember we had someone making a run in behind their fullback. Almost another dimension to the play.

    The way the modern game is played you need great pace, movement and stamina to do that.
    It’s like he was able to motor there in an instant.

    Must be one of the advantages of being 5’11” and 10 stone I suppose. But you need the pace he has to go with it. Not just pace but stamina to be able to do it more that 3 or 4 times.
    He made 30 sprints in that match.

    Sorry if I have said pace too many times.
    Did I mention pace ?

  • martoon

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:00 AM

    Comment #21

    one fine day @13 – Lol, yes he’s definitely a contender.

  • cyprus

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:02 AM

    Comment #22

    You could add ‘pace’ to all that.

  • Jib

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:02 AM

    Comment #23

    Shelvey gives Rafa a tactical edge
    In the 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 formation where
    you are trying to bypass the midfield
    there’s no better player.
    In a wing – back three CB’s format or
    a 4 – 4 – 2 he’s average..

  • RobLeenio

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:03 AM

    Comment #24

    Posada the impressive thing for me is that he’s as fast at three quarters pace as many defenders are flat out. That means he can save energy while making those runs down the channels and still stretch the defence.

    Maybe this is why his stamina seems so good – running quickly is just actually effortless for him.

  • one fine day

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:05 AM

    Comment #25

    Yeah it’s a tricky one.
    Think we even saw an upturn in form when Ki came in and did the simple things and we moved the ball quicker from the back .
    Think a lot will rest on lejune staying fit and Longstaff’s form until the end of the season.
    It’s the sort of head ache I think Rafa has always wanted since he arrived

  • Nicky the ball tosser

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:10 AM

    Comment #26

    I think the better we get, the more influential Shelvey will likely become. He is a real give and go midfielder with a full range of passing and decent work rate. Let Longstaff or Hayden sit, and play Shelvey or Ki a little more advanced to link up with Almiron and Perez and watch us deftly unlock opposition defences.

  • Lee Charnley Bunga Party

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:13 AM

    Comment #27

    I think Benitez deserves great credit for changing to the 352/343 formation and not just using it against the bigger teams to keep the score down its now a staple in every match and it just brings out better performances from certain players.

    It suits Lejuene and Schar although now Lascalles is fully fit he looks a lot more comfortable.

    Probably prolonged Richie’s career in the top flight playing as a left wing back where his lack of pace doesn’t get exposed as much!

    Suits Perez who seems to be closer to goal for scoring chances and Almiron looks like he fits into the system.

    For it to work properly you need the 2 midfielders to be able to cover some amount of ground Longstaff and Hayden together remind me of Kante and Drinkwater at Leicester both could run for days , make tackles , run with the ball and pass well

    Whereas I feel with Shelvey and Diame they can’t cover the same amount of ground but they do have other qualities!

    Shelvey’s passing for example could work coming off the bench when teams are tiring and gaps appear over the pitch.

    Another thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the amount of times Hayden and Longstaff win the ball in the air that makes a big difference at goal kicks and long balls from the other teams

  • one fine day

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:22 AM

    Comment #28

    Wasn’t actualy calling the delay on ash and you’re right about Atlanta awaiting in comings before allowing it to go through (as well as the b/s of demanding 30 mil plus to start he bidding ) just frustrates me this club down the years so many fine margins in success and just once would like to the right right team right place running for us .
    How many times have we teams playing shite for 10 games then the week before they play us they either get the star player back or sack the coach and get the dead cat bounce .
    Would love us this Saturday to be playing Chelsea or to have played man utd at home before catchpoles mate was shipped in to wipe pogbas nose .
    I will however blame everything else on el Gordo ?

  • martoon

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:26 AM

    Comment #29

    When you think about it 3 of our most expensive players in the squad can’t actually get on the bench never mind in the team – Shelvey, Muto & Murphy (now out on loan) – not sure what MA will think of that!

  • carltoon

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:30 AM

    Comment #30

    Really impressed with Perez’s performance Sat. Much stronger holding the ball. Almiron what a home debut. I agree he’ll get plenty free kicks and maybe draw a few reds. Been crying out for a player like him. Roll on Tuesday.

  • one fine day

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:31 AM

    Comment #31

    Don’t get me wrong like what Ki brings and said so earlier .
    Surprised me as I never saw much in him at Swansea but he never stops and Hayden seems to be a new player ,the synic in me thinks could be a player knowing he is in the shop window ?
    But as for Luxury I take your point if we were down to the wire and needed a result I’d have Longstaff and Ki sitting with shelvey on the bench

  • awaydays

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:42 AM

    Comment #32

    Had a lot of catching up to do been in hospital since Saturday but I’ve seen the highlights … we were unbelievable Saturday WOW

  • dig-n-dig22

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:44 AM

    Comment #33


    Rob , I know Almiron and Longstaff have had the bulk of the praise for the victory against Hudders and rightly so but the player I would hate to loose most would be Lejeune , I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our form has picked up at the time when lejeune returned from injury, the whole team benefit’s from his presence. He and Laselles has struck up the solid CB partnership like they did this time last season and Lejeune offers the quality long ball when Shelvey isn’t available .
    On a different note , I can’t help thinking that If Kenyon or any of the other potential buyers turned up today with £300Mill cash in hand ,no way would they get us without showing more cash , I would value Almiron,Longstaff,Shelvey,Lejeune,Dubravka and lescelles conservatively at £180Mill , assets on the pitch are well over half of the original asking price ,to sum it up ,Ashley will have to build a bigger stadium .

  • RobLeenio

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:44 AM

    Comment #34

    Awaydays hope you’re well now mate.

    One fine day agree about the difficult problems facing Rafa. Some hard choices ahead but I imagine a few of them have already been made, given his professionalism. I reckon he probably knew his likely team for Burnley even before the Hudds match

  • RobLeenio

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:46 AM

    Comment #35

    Dig I agree I on Lejeune and his impact on the team as a whole and on Lascelles. Quality pairing.

    I hope you’re wrong on Ashley’s valuation going up though. Shudder.

  • jayphoto

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:46 AM

    Comment #36

    Think Shelvey and Ki might struggle to get back into the 11…. Longstaff and Hayden are performing far better than those 2 have and the 3-4-2-1 has been so effective but suits 2 runners in the middle and im not sure shelvey or Ki fit that! Our strongest department is defence and 3-4-2-1 lets us maximize that too, not sure id change it for the 1 game in 5 shelvey bothers to turn up form for

  • jayphoto

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:48 AM

    Comment #37

    Our upturn in form last time coincided with Lejeune coming into the team too…
    gives us the ability to play out and changes the style

  • simon376

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:49 AM

    Comment #38

    Dig and Rob, totally agree. Seem to remember our form picked up last season when he returned from injury then as well

  • simon376

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:50 AM

    Comment #39

    Beat me to it Jay

  • awaydays

    Feb 25, 2019 at 11:50 AM

    Comment #40

    Cheers Rob

    I think we could cope with Burnley we have enough good players to deal with them in the air playing 3 at the back+ rondon longstaff and Hayden … pace on the break from a corner they don’t have a great deal of pace so a counter attack could undo them although they are flying at the moment


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