There has been a lot of talk about the possibility of playing Jonjo Shelvey and Mikel Merino together.
Jonjo Shelvey started the season alongside Isaac Hayden, only for the red card to give Mikel Merino his chance he hasn’t looked back since.
Starting the next four Premier League matches, even though Shelvey was available for the last two.
For many/most Newcastle supporters it is a case of either Merino or Shelvey, alongside Isaac Hayden. The general belief being that you need the more defensively minded Hayden in the team, as playing both Jonjo Shelvey and Mikel Merino would potentially leave Newcastle too open.
The final 21 minutes of the Stoke game saw Shelvey replace Hayden but difficult to judge based solely on that brief sight of the two of them together.
There has also been suggestions from supporters that Jonjo Shelvey could play instead of Ayoze Perez in the number 10 position – but that is a different debate.
Isaac Hayden has done ok so far this season but in these last two wins over Swansea and Stoke, he hasn’t been anywhere near the level of midfield partner Merino.
So will Rafa Benitez give a Shelvey/Merino partnership a try?
Regardless of that, the United boss may not have a choice sometime soon.
Newcastle play Arsenal on 16 December 2017 and anybody who picks up five yellow cards before then, picks up a one match ban.
This is how it looks so far for Newcastle United in terms of bookings:
3 Isaac Hayden, Matt Ritchie
2 Mikel Merino
1 Ciaran Clark, Dwight Gayle, Grant Hanley, Joselu, Jamaal Lascelles
Isaac Hayden has been putting his foot in and does have the occasional daft moment, with three yellow cards in the first five PL matches, it is difficult to see him not picking up at least two more in the 12 games Newcastle have before facing Arsenal in mid-December.
The reality being that a couple more yellows for both Hayden and Ritchie are likely to come along way before we get to December.
The eight bookings that Hayden, Merino and Ritchie have picked up between them, is at least in part a reflection on the workrate in Newcastle’s midfield and the eagerness to pressurise and quickly close the opposition down.
Nobody wants to see that change but no doubt Rafa Benitez will be impressing on his players to be a bit more clever when going about it.
If Isaac Hayden was suspended/left out, it would be interesting to see if he’d play Jonjo Shelvey with Mikel Merino, the thought of playing Mohamed Diame or Jack Colback instead, wouldn’t float too many people’s boats.