Rafa Benitez has made some clear decisions on Newcastle players since the turn of the year.

The United boss going with a certain core group as the basis of his team and matchday squad to try and ensure Premier League safety.

There have been some major winners, players such as Diame, Shelvey, Perez and Gayle, playing week in and week out.

The same for Paul Dummett back from injury, as well as loan signings Dubravka and Kenedy.

However, there have also been losers.

A number of Newcastle players have all found games, or even a place on the bench, very hard to come by since December, after playing a more active part in the team/squad in the second half of 2017.

I have identified 10 Newcastle players who have all seen their involvement scaled back and who all must have question marks against them [some bigger than others], now regularly watching from the sidelines.

There have been 10 Premier League matches since December and below I have used three stats to help give background – number of PL starts in 2018, number of times they have come off the bench, how many times named amongst the subs:

Jesus Gamez (last PL start 10 Sept 2017) – 0 Starts 0 Sub appearances 0 Named on the bench

An easy one for starters. Brought in as experienced back-up but struggled to get a game even when fit in Championship. His two year contract ends this summer.

Verdict – Definitely leaving.

Chancel Mbemba (last PL start 27 Dec 2017) – 0 Starts 0 Sub appearances 0 Named on the bench

Was first choice early in the Championship season but once dropped, has rarely figured.

Rumours of Rafa less than impressed with his attitude and not even on the bench in 2018.

Verdict – Rafa will definitely try to sell this summer.

Rob Elliot (last PL start 27 Dec 2017) – 0 Starts 0 Sub appearances 2 Named on the bench

Rafa chopped and changed between Elliot and Darlow early this season, clearly not seeing either as regular first choice material.

Has had injury problems but Darlow looks to be rated ahead of him and is younger. Martin Dubravka set to remain number one when/if he completes a permanent deal, whilst Woodman will be potentially one of NUFC’s main three keepers, or even another new one brought in and Woodman out on loan.

Verdict – I think definitely allowed to move on if Elliot can find a new club.

Massadio Haidara (last PL start 19 Sept 2015) – 0 Starts 0 Sub appearances 3 Named on the bench

See Jesus Gamez. Given a ridiculous five and a half year contract back in January 2013 and nowhere near the level needed. Newcastle will be relieved to at last get him off the wage bill.

Verdict – Definitely leaving.

Isaac Hayden (last PL start 20 Jan 2018) – 1 Starts 6 Sub appearances 8 Named on the bench

After doing pretty well in the Championship, has sadly looked nowhere near Premier League class.

Still young enough but I struggle now to see him having enough improvement.

Whilst Diame and Shelvey have impressed in these latter months Rafa will surely be looking to bring in added quality to compete in centre midfield.

Verdict – If Rafa has Diame, Shelvey, Merino and one or maybe even two new signings, I think Hayden wouldn’t get in the matchday squad. Rafa would be prepared to sell but possibly happy to keep if the player accepts he is on the very fringes of the squad.

Javier Manquillo (last PL start 20 Jan 2018) – 2 Starts 1 Sub appearances 8 Named on the bench

Yedlin and Dummett now certain starters.

Gave spirited performances without ever really looking good enough.

Verdict – Rafa looking to bring in better competition on both left and right, with Manquillo up for sale if landing those players. Could be kept if those players can’t be landed and/or money needing to be spent elsewhere.

Mikel Merino (last PL start 3 March 2018) – 2 Starts 3 Sub appearances 7 Named on the bench

Excellent early in the season but injury and indifferent form since.

Definitely has talent but lack of pace will always be possible negative in Premier League.

Verdict – I think Rafa will want to keep him but if he can’t guarantee more first team involvement AND a bid comes in that would equal a significant profit, then could still leave.

Joselu (last PL start 31 Jan 2018) – 2 Starts 4 Sub appearances 6 Named on the bench

Like Manquillo an honest effort in every game without being good enough to be a starter.

Hopefully at least one or two new strikers will be brought in.

Verdict – I think the percentage call is Rafa keeping him as one of his four strikers, unless two new strikers brought in with one of them decent in the air.

Jacob Murphy (last PL start 3 March 2018) – 3 Starts 1 Sub appearances 6 Named on the bench

Showed flashes of promise but difficult to see him being a first team regular next season.

Verdict – Has potential and Rafa not actively looking to sell. If team/squad is strengthened enough then maybe see Murphy loaned out in the first half of next season to get regular football/experience.

Christian Atsu (last PL start 3 March 2018) – 5 Starts 5 Sub appearances 5 Named on the bench

Despite five starts since December, has lost his place to Kenedy and that has been a reminder of quality needed.

Played his part in promotion and has been ok at times this season, though rarely really convincing.

Verdict – With the level of the squad set to improve, Rafa will be happy to listen to offers.

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  • Lord

    Of course the discussion changes completely if:

    – we get relegated (unlikely but let’s not get complacent)
    – Rafa resigns
    – Mike Ashley goes on holiday until mid August then gives him tuppence to play with until deadline day where Rafa has to sell to buy

  • Stephen

    In other words we have the nucleus of a reasonable team/squad.
    With a little bit of wheeling and dealing we could finish comfortable mid table next season.
    And that unfortunately has to be the extent of our hopes and ambitions
    My main worry we have an owner that would sell his grannies tea set.

    • Wor Lass

      Funny to think, Stephen, thaat we could actually finish comfortably mid-table this season. Thanks to Rafa.

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        Yip it`s down to Rafa ok, but there`s about 10 teams currently in the league that are average at best, maybe more that 10

  • robbersdog

    I like Mbemba, and I don’t think Hayden has ever let us down when he plays. Also, I think it would be very premature to sell Merino, as he has the potential to be a big star – like Florian Thauvin has become. Who cares about his lack of pace? It didn’t do the likes of Hoddle, Wilkins and Lampard any harm.

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      Mbemba can cover the whole back 4 and play as a defensive midfield player, he`s worth keeping, but would he be happy, i doubt it

      • robbersdog

        I think if there’s one player in Rafa’s squad who can rightly feel aggrieved at his lack of first team opportunities, it’s Mbemba. In my opinion he’s the equal of both Clark and Lejeune, and he’ll probably move elsewhere and do very well. He’d be in the right price range for clubs like Burnley and Bournemouth, but it’s clear he has no future under Rafa.

        • You obviously haven’t seen Mbemba passes and playing with the ball as he is miles apart from Clark and especially Lejeune. Rafa wanted defenders who can pass, move and run with the ball. Mbemba hasn’t got those qualities, hence why Rafa doesn’t pick him. As a tackler and man marking he is good enough but that is nowhere near top 10 EPL standard and that is where we need to aim at.

          • robbersdog

            You could’ve made your point without the patronising You obviously haven’t seen… stuff.

            Oh…and just for the record, not only have I seen Mbemba play for Newcastle many times, but I saw him play for Anderlecht a few times because I lived and worked in Belgium for a few months in 2014. I always thought that his passing and ball playing skills were very good – certainly above average for a centre-back.

          • There is a huge gap between Belgium A and Premier League. I am from Bulgaria and although Ludogorets qualified for the Champions league and play well in Europe our league level is nowhere near Championship standards really and makes players look really good until they face some proper competition on the pitch.

      • Mark Potter

        Cover the whole back four? But not very well as a FB on either side, unless it’s to park the bus and not go forward. While
        at CB, last time he played regularly we were relegated. Some say he was our best defender that season, but the standard to compare him against wasn’t great. Only Dummett was reliable that season.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    It`s frightening reading articles like this as it highlights just how many players we have at Newcastle that just aren`t good enough for the Premiership.
    it`s a revolving door of schitt as some go out more come in

  • Wor Monga

    I’d agree that none of those players are exactly fireproof, but Merino, Murphy, Atsu and Hayden will be much further from the exit door than the rest, as they could only have been brought into the club with an eye on the future, whilst getting 1st team experience at the PL level, which none had previously…

    …of the rest Haidara and Gamez are gone for sure, and will be replaced for the squad…Mbemba, Manquillo and Joselu will probably be advertised abroad to raise some capital, and Elliot will probably find a championship club in exchange for a small fee!!!

  • NUFCDan

    ‘a bid comes in that would equal a significant profit’ – you could say this about anyone in the squad. For example, Lascelles leaves and Mbemba is back to third choice centreback, Kenedy isn’t signed or his loan extended and Atsu as back to being 1st choice. I think which fringe players leave depends on which first choice players are retained.

  • mentalman

    What about Lazaar, Sels etc?

    • robbersdog

      We don’t mention Sels; it’s like it never happened.

  • All these players apart from Murphy and Atsu will be looking to get sold after the WC. I fail to see why Darlow isn’t in there. Rafa will pribably add another competitive keeper for Dubravka from Spain most likely.
    We are looking at a clearance in the summer but must keep our core team (Dubravka, Lascelles, Dummett, Yedlin, Lejeune, Shelvey, Diame, Kenedy, Ritchie, Perez) anyone outside that we will probably listen to offers.