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.