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5 Rafa Benitez changes against West Brom – Were they the right call and should they start v Chelsea?

4 years ago

Rafa Benitez produced a teamsheet against West Brom that nobody would/could have predicted.

Five changes to the team and this from a manager who has kept changes to a minimum this season.

Rafa Benitez pointed to only three days between matches but if the team had been playing well and producing results, I don’t think any of us believe that quite so many alterations would have been made to the starting line-up.

The match ended in a 2-2 draw so difficult to say whether overall it was the right or wrong call but here’s my opinion on the individuals who came in…and whether they should stay in the team…

Karl Darlow

I don’t think there were any surprises for Newcastle fans last night. Darlow did a decent job last season and is an ok goalkeeper. Bottom line is that, just like Rob Elliot, he isn’t good enough to be a Premier League number one. However, he did alright last night and could do little about either goal, so I think he should definitely keep his place for Chelsea.

Probably a case of Rob Elliot taking himself out of the team because after doing not too bad this season, the Man Utd and Watford matches reminding us why he’s never been a regular number one before at a decent level.

So Darlow to stay in for Saturday but surely this is a position that Rafa will be desperate to address in January.

Chancel Mbemba

Having done well at left-back earlier in the season, it baffled many Newcastle fans when Mbemba hadn’t been given a game since  September. Last night reminded us his defending  is far better than Javier Manquillo in that position and going forward he is now worse.

For me he was probably our best player on the night and definitely should stay in for Chelsea. Even when Dummett is fit I would keep Mbemba in but just like the goalkeeping position, this is another where Newcastle desperately need better quality.

Mikel Merino

The odd stray pass maybe showed his rustiness without games and he tired towards the end- but a no-brainer that he plays again at Chelsea, unless physically he isn’t ready to start again.

Gives us far more confidence and control in the middle of the pitch and the two goals conceded were nothing to do with him.

Isaac Hayden

He put a shift in but is still struggling to show he is Premier League standard.

Replaced by Jonjo Shelvey with 10 minutes remaining, I can’t see any logic in once again Rafa playing Hayden ahead of Shelvey at Stamford Bridge.

I think his inclusion on Saturday will depend on whether Rafa Benitez changes formation and goes with three central midfielders at the expense of a number 10.

Ayoze Perez

Speaking of which. Ayoze Perez was back in the team after missing the last three games.

Not sure there is a lot to say on him. For me, he was his usual self, a few flashes of skill in non-threatening positions and plenty of running but not doen very quickly, so never putting the West Brom defenders under real pressure.

The bottom line though is that, just like Joselu he offers zero threat up front. The pair of them never look like they are going to score or even create something  for another player.There’s no way I would keep him in the team for Chelsa but I wouldn’t bet against Rafa doing exactly that, based on the season so far.

Summing up

To sum up, Mbemba and Merino definitely improved the team and should certainly be in again for Chelsea.

Karl Darlow did nothing wrong and was an improvement on recent Rob Elliot displays so should keep the shirt.

Hayden is still finding his feet in the top tier and as mentioned above, I think his inclusion on Saturday should/will depend on whether the manager wants to accommodate an extra central midfielder.

Perez offered nothing once again, so better options available in this next match.


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