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Opinion

Newcastle fans with short memories: Exhibit One – Mikel Merino

12 months ago
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Mikel Merino made only his second Premier League start since December at Anfield and didn’t impress many Newcastle fans.

With Rafa’s team defending for most of the match the midfielder says ‘I felt tired out there…’ and said afterwards that a lack of games is a big factor in your energy levels.

The 21 year old believes that only now is he getting back to full fitness and training ‘with high intensity’.

Football fans often have short memories and for some, they are finding it difficult to remember just how influential Mikel Merino was in giving Newcastle a foothold this season in the top tier.

He was a key figure in the three wins against West Ham, Stoke and Swansea, then picked up a back injury in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at St James Park.

Rafa tried to ease him through the back problem by using Merino off the bench and the player came on to help Newcastle get a 2-2 draw at Southampton and then scored the late winner at home to Palace as a sub.

After nine matches Newcastle had 14 points and the Spanish Under 21 international had been key to that.

Ruled out for over five weeks, Newcastle didn’t pick up another point until Mikel Merino came back into the team for the 2-2 draw with West Brom.

Not able to get fully fit and shake off his back injury, Rafa Benitez has only given the former Dortmund player one start since December, the 1-1 home draw with Burnley.

A tough introduction back into the team against Liverpool with Shelvey injured, Mikel Merino will only improve, and could be a key figure in the survival battle.

Easy to forget as well that he is the youngest in the team and first season in the Premier League – I wish all of our previous foreign imports had had such a positive initial impact as Mikel Merino has had.

With time and patience we will have some player.

Mikel Merino:

“I felt tired out there…

“When you are not playing regularly that is normal – because minutes on the pitch give you energy.

“I feel good but of course it is not easy when you are defending all the game, I worked hard and tried to do what the coach wanted.

“Jonjo Shelvey may be missing again, so I have to be ready, I need to take advantage of any opportunity I get.

“I have recovered from my back injury, though I have had other problems too, but I now feel fit.

“I am now training with high intensity and ready whenever the coach needs me.

“Every game is important, we try to approach every one with the same mentality, but maybe the next two games at home (Southampton and Huddersfield) are a little bit easier than this one.

“Not at the high level of Liverpool, but we know the way we have to play is the same as we played against Manchester United and Bournemouth.”

Liverpool are a top side winning a lot of games, while we are battling against relegation.

“There was a big difference between the two sets of players technically, but we tried out best to defend together but in the end, they took their opportunities.

“It is difficult to defend for 90 minutes because they pass the ball so well and drag you out of position.

“They find spaces and you end up exhausted.

“Once they scored their first goal, it made it easier for them but in the second half I think we kept pushing until the end, that is the positive we have to take from this game.

“Our goal difference is always important for us, and when we play big teams, we are not losing by big margins.

“Everyone can see the team is working hard and we know goal difference will be important, though of course it is not good to lose a game.

“We were not keeping it tight just to avoid conceding goals, we tried to keep it tight because that was the way we could get something out of the game.

“I’m not saying there is a good way to lose.”
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