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.

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  • Steve Pearce

    I don’t know about Shelvey in the number 10 position – but that’s probably because I’ve never seen him play so far forward. He’d be better than Perez up there as no one in their right mind would try to muscle him off the ball. The only drawback is his short fuse as he’ll no doubt get a lot of stick off opposing players trying to get him sent off again. Still we’ll all get a chance to see them together come 4pm tomorrow.

    • Steve Smith

      Fairly certain he used to play that far forward for Liverpool against us.

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        He did & for us last season

    • molend

      Agree about his fuse. I think the only player we’ve really got with the brain and feet to play No 10 is Matt Ritchie, but then you’d be sacrificing his wing play. Not worth it. Mebbe we should play without a number ten if we haven’t got one?

      • Steve Pearce

        What about Atsu? He’s quick and his game intelligence and confidence is growing.

        • molend

          Good point. Somehow I don’t see him as an out and out winger anyway.

    • steve

      His first couple of games under McLaren he was played further forward and looked great, he was then inexplicably moved back and played awful.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Jonjo played a few games last season further forward & was very good, Merino is more defensive so the 2 could play together

  • Natturner26

    I think Hayden has been playing well. A professional tidy player that makes you forget he’s only 22. We have been bossing the middle of the pitch with Merino and Hayden. Why change that. Shelvey doesn’t defend well enough for me to play there. He’s a liability defensively. And Lascelles needs more protection.

  • 55degreesnorth

    Here’s a thought. Why not leave well alone? 3 wins in a row tells us that Rafa has the right balance at the moment. I’m not a fan of Perez but the stats tell a more positive picture.

    • Paul Patterson

      Agreed. I don’t see the need to change a winning team, although Rafa loves a tinker about.