With only 12 days to go until Newcastle visit Fulham, interesting to see how many minutes on the pitch for each United player in the friendlies so far.
So who have been the leading contenders so far and who is it that doesn’t appear to be a part of Rafa’s plans?
The Newcastle boss has only Tuesday’s match at Southend and Saturday’s home friendly with Vitesse Arnhem left to gauge which players should be used, once the competitive action begins.
Newcastle have played Bohemians, Doncaster Rovers and Sporting Lokeren so far, with a maximum of 270 minutes available for each player.
A few things to take into consideration: new signing Grant Hanley has been unavailable for all three games, whilst Matt Ritchie missed yesterday with a knock and Adam Armstrong wasn’t available for the Bohemians game.
Whilst of course the likes of Kevin Mbabu, Siem de Jong, Tim Krul, Rob Elliot, Massadio Haidara and Emmanuel Riviere are all out injured, whilst Moussa Sissoko is still to return (if he ever will) after the Euros.
Minutes played in first team pre-season friendlies so far:
You can’t really ignore the fact that Matz Sels is right at the top, it clearly looks like he will be starting the season as first choice keeper.
After him, you then have three defenders in Mbemba, Lascelles and Janmaat. On that evidence so far I don’t think it is a big step towards thinking that these three are also very likely to be starting the season at Craven Cottage.
Grant Hanley has of course now arrived but Rafa would be unlikely to risk him so soon, whilst expectations of Daryl Janmaat leaving might prove premature. Would Rafa be giving the Dutch full-back so much time on the pitch if he thought he was leaving? Contrast that with Cheick Tiote – only Wijnaldum has been given less time!
The Ivory Coast midfielder has only 11 months left on his contract and surely he must have been told that he won’t be in the first eleven. Others such as Saivet and Anita have had decent time compared to him, though maybe a bit worrying that Gouffran has got onto the pitch quite as much!
Shelvey and Colback are looking solid predictions for centre midfield and with three x 45 minutes in the trio of games, Isaac Hayden is also a contender for a place.
Going back to the defence, if you did think the indications were that Mbemba, Lascelles and Janmaat were looking probables, it does though appear that left-back is still up for grabs. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see Rafa buy a specialist left-back in the coming days/weeks but he does have options in Gamez, Anita, Dummett and indeed young Jamie Sterry – the young defender high up the list with 152 minutes so far.
Many Newcastle fans will be pleased to see Rolando Aarons featuring so much, having more minutes than any other midfielder/striker. There has always been a belief that he could potentially be very good but indifferent form and especially injuries have hampered his progress – let’s hope this will be his real breakthrough season.
We will revisit this after Southend on Tuesday night, when with four of the five friendlies completed the picture should look even clearer.