In the lead up to the Manchester City match, I wrote on The Mag that Gini Wijnaldum surely had to be ‘rested’ at last.
The former PSV had started every single Premier League game since he arrived at St James Park in the summer and it was most definitely a case of ‘diminishing returns’.
The four goals against Norwich in October had clouded many people’s judgement and it had in all honesty been a poor last six months from Wijnaldum, with only very rare flashes of his talent – three further goals in the last 24 games, plus the odd assist.
On Monday (18 April) I wrote:
‘Surely now is the time for Rafa Benitez to rest Gini Wijnaldum against Manchester City and look to use him as an impact sub, something which just may reignite his spark.
In a better team maybe he would have continued to be more effective but in this Newcastle team that is regularly on the back foot (despite the win Newcastle only had 34% possession v Swansea), you often forget that Wijnaldum is even still on the pitch.
It is not a case of writing Gini Wijnaldum off, more a case of managing his situation and trying to kickstart his goalscoring/impact by not continuing to flog the dead horse that is blindly picking him every single game from the start.
Wijnaldum still has a part to play but maybe in these final five games, possibly ‘less is more’ where the Dutch international is concerned.’
As it happened, on Tuesday night Mitrovic replaced Cisse after 55 minutes but it wasn’t until the clock hit 81 minutes when Rafa Benitez called the excellent Andros Townsend off, sending Gini Wijnaldum on for his first ever Premier League appearance as a substitute.
Watching the match once again after recording it off Sky, I have to say that Wijnaldum had a face like the proverbial ‘slapped arse’ as he stepped onto the pitch.
He didn’t look a happy man but Rafa Benitez almost helped put in place a magical finale.
In the closing stages Wijnaldum got into an excellent position inside the box and forced Joe Hart into a blinding save that undoubtedly saved a point for Man City and lost Newcastle two.
Maybe he could have struck the shot earlier but it was a great save regardless and what is for sure, I can’t remember the last time when Wijnaldum was in at the business end of things and close to being a match winner.
Leaving the likes of Mitrovic on the bench has brought more out of him when he has got on the pitch and I’d like to think that this rest/wake up call will have done Wijnaldum the power of good as well.
Both Rafa Benitez and Jonjo Shelvey head back to Anfield this weekend and interesting to see what reaction the Newcastle manager will get from the player he signed for Liverpool IF he gets his chance – either starting or from the bench.