Only 55 days to go until the start of the season and everybody is guessing who will and won’t be at Newcastle United by the time we reach Saturday 6 August.
Despite tough talk from Rafa Benitez about the Moussa Sissoko situation, I don’t believe for one minute he thinks the Frenchman will stay, or indeed wants him to.
When somebody comes out in public and states they want to leave and on top of that winds the fans up, there is no future in keeping an unhappy player and more importantly, one who flatters to deceive.
I think Rafa is simply playing the game, a clever one at that, and ensuring that everybody – especially other clubs – knows that they are wasting their time trying to steal him on the cheap.
For my money, the basis of Rafa Benitez’ rebuilding plan is to sell Wijnaldum, Sissoko and probably Janmaat, then add that cash to the budget already promised, which should be more than enough to fund the bringing in of players to fill the significant gaps we have in our squad.
The question then is who will the Manager look to build his team around if we lose ‘superstars’ Wijnaldum and Sissoko?
This is where next season’s player of the season comes in.
Whether he sees him as a longer term options as well, I think Benitez will organise his team around Jonjo Shelvey.
Some Newcastle fans suffer from serious short-term memory loss and are happy to write off a player who looked initially as though he would/could single-handedly keep United up last season.
Whereas Andros Townsend started slowly and then burned ever brighter, Jonjo Shelvey went the other way.
Those match winning performances against West Ham and West Brom faded away and after starting the first four matches under Rafa, he only managed four cameos from the bench in the final half dozen.
The United boss clearly saw something that wasn’t working with the mix of players but in the absence of Wijnaldum and Sissoko, I think Shelvey will come to the fore.
I think midfield/attacking players with pace will be brought in to complement Jonjo Shelvey’s passing skills and he will be restored as playmaker.
Jack Colback is probably nailed on to play a holding role although I can’t see the Manager going once again with Tiote as well as the former Sunderland player, Newcastle will need a lot more mobility, especially if Mitrovic is retained, although I’m not too sure about that one either.
With any one of our keepers, Lascelles and Mbemba, Shelvey and Mitrovic or A N Other striker, Newcastle will have a formidable spine of the team that should be far too good for the Championship.
Top of that list I reckon can be Jonjo Shelvey, helping Newcastle back to the Premier League whilst at the same time restoring a large chunk of his reputation.