Now that this Newcastle United season has finally got underway after some ten games or so into the campaign, and as delighted I am with the win, I feel a big point has been overlooked from the two great wins against Watford and Bournemouth.

We looked particularly good on Saturday and should have had Bournemouth killed off before half-time.

The play was great, we looked dangerous and created quite a few chances, with Ki Sung-yeung impressing in the middle of the park. It was his 40 yard pass that released Kenedy to whip a great cross in for Rondon to finish and Bournemouth couldn’t handle him in the first half. It was also Ki that won and then provided the free-kick for Ayoze Perez to score last week against Watford.

The subtle point I’m hinting at is simple. Whisper it carefully, we’ve looked a better team without Jonjo Shelvey…

Now I like Shelvey, he can pick a pass out and play one as well, but the current Newcastle side with Jonjo Shelvey have become too reliant on his passing. We’ve looked noticeably sharper since he left the field against Watford.

When things aren’t going well, it would be foolish to persist with what blatantly isn’t working. It’s taken until mid November to actually look creative and for that, much credit must go to the introduction of South Korean Ki. It would be nice to see after yet another international break, for him to retain his place in the side, even if as expected Shelvey uses the 16 day break and gets back fit.

I commented this week that it was maybe time for the side to switch to 5-3-2 as we certainly have the players for it, that way we could utilise BOTH players and give Burnley something extra to think about. As limited as Diame is, a trio of Diame, Shelvey and Ki firing things forward to Perez and Rondon would be a good prospect.

We needn’t worry too much about the defence as Martin Dubravka breathes an air of confidence in the back line and I’d be happy with any pairing of Lascelles, Schar and Fernandez defending, or even all three. The trio all offer something different to each other, Lascelles brings an air of calm, Schar neat and tidy on the ball and Fernandez gives no-nonsense defending.

Shuffling the system may also benefit Paul Dummett and DeAndre Yedlin. The American still gets pulled out of position too often, although gets himself forward to aid attacking play. The opposite is true for Dummett who has gone by unnoticed over the last few weeks with some great performances. I genuinely don’t get why he doesn’t get more recognition.

Playing 5-3-2 would have it’s casualties, notably Kenedy and Matt Ritchie, which wouldn’t be ideal. Ritchie will run all day, harass and disrupt opponents and Kenedy is a quality player when he’s on his game, typified by his display yesterday. However, it’s a team game and squad depth and rotation is important. Certainly having those two to call upon from the bench would be pretty good.

Either way, the defensive style that Rafa Benitez has been criticised for from some quarters is proving a winning style at last. It would only be when we start winning games that such a defensive set up would show for what it is. Not getting stuffed against better opposition has kept our goal difference down and now points are starting to back this play up.

When teams like Southampton and Burnley travel to Manchester City and get beat by five goals each, I wonder what planet some people are on when we keep it tight and lose by the odd goal. Rafa is playing the long game and it’s starting to pay dividends now. Our goal difference is far superior to any side in the bottom seven teams, a clear three goals better than Crystal Palace and at the time of writing, a whopping 14 better than Fulham. How’s Mitrovic doing down there these days? Hardly improving their goals against.

He may not have been given sufficient backing in the summer and in a perverse twist, the better we do, the less likely the manager is to get more money from the owner.

Until Ashley buggers off- In Rafa We Trust!

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  • Polarboy

    Ki definitely shouldn’t be dropped when Shelvey is fit again. Knowing that he has competition in his position should be a good thing if he takes it the right way. I just wish we had someone who could credibly replace Diame. As much as people will be clamouring for us to buy attacking players in January, we desperately need a replacement/competition for Diame. We need at least one full back, a DM, a number 10, a winger, and a striker in January. Of course I can’t see Ashley shelling out the 60 million plus we’d need to spend to sign five decent players.

    • Ram Kishore

      I have been saying the same thing.. we really have no one to credibly physical enough to replace Diame.
      I don’t really see the necessity of a winger unless we let go of one same goes for the striker too.
      All the other 3 are a requirement and those will be the most important ones. I expect sterry, Lazaar to leave permanently or atleast on loan for sure

      • Polarboy

        Ritchie at the very least needs credible competition on the wing. He’s worked hard as he always does, but he’s been below par for a long time now from an attacking perspective. We need competition for places all over the pitch as Rafa has already pointed out. Murphy and Atsu can be useful at times, but there’s no danger of them starting on the form they’ve shown.

        • Ram Kishore

          Murphy has been out on the sidelines for too long. Few sub appearances can enormously benefit him keep him on the toes and have match fitness so that he can step up soon when any of the wingers get injured especially If the injury is to Ritchie. Ritchie has had few knocks already this season.

      • Toon Arnie

        It’ll be a loan as those two are appalling players. I would like to see Shelvey and Ki play together as part of a more creative attacking force. Diame is doing next to nothing at the moment and could maybe do with a couple of games out of the team. Ki can’t be dropped after the way he’s played in these two games, he’s hardly put a foot wrong.

        • Ram Kishore

          You are right Arnie but there is always one thing which will let our midfield weak.. physicality, stamina and tracking back.. both Shelvey and Ki lack that a lot especially ki.
          Diame does what he does at best.. Bullying players, winning balls, breaking up play.
          Ki can’t track back quick, not physical.
          Shelvey is better on these two a bit but still it makes us one player short.
          Do you remember the goal scored by Lerma. Ki was marking him.
          If I am right Rafa will not drop Diame for the foreseeable future.

          We can all say he can do this but he really knows something that we lack
          just being honest here. 😀

          • Toon Arnie

            A point well made Ram – in Rafa we trust.

  • Chris-Chapple

    it was a shot on goal that lead to Perez scoring last weeks goal,
    i watched Ki yesterday & he was quite good but his corners ended up with the opposition, in other words i wouldn`t have him taking corners.
    i would like to see Shelvey & Ki play together.

    • Ram Kishore

      Then comes the lack of physicality part in the middle. I don’t see them playing anytime sooner unless Diame is injured or very poor.

  • DZA

    Who writing these articles, removing Richie and now selling Shelvey? Shelvey is key to this team. What about trading the article creator to a Mackem page? :)

    • Mike D

      Didn’t you read the article?

    • Billmag

      Paul’s a good lad I disagree with him but it’s a matter of opinion’s, on the Shelvey issue I don’t think he’s been at his best this season too many hollywood passes going out of play, and I can’t see anywhere that Paul suggested selling him.

  • Ba ba.

    No need to whisper it as we all knew this after the Watford game it was obvious.

  • L M B

    I think you have put it exactly how I would. It’s been evolving into the wingback thing since the summer but we can still revert to a 4 4 2 if needed in a game with the players available on the bench. With the extra time available during the International break coming up, more time to perfect it too…

  • L M B

    Also,with the extra C M position created, players like Ritchie, Kenedy etc etc can fight over that and you can play Shelvey WITH Ki and Diame… OPTIONS!!!

  • toonterrier

    In the right team Shelvey would shine but we seem more focussed on defending rather than attacking and winning games. Our possession rate is on a good day about forty per cent but if you want to win games then you need some decent speedy forwards up front to do the business and then watch Shelvey do what he’s good at.

    • Ram Kishore

      Yep. He could also shine and have a more dynamic role to play if we play 3 in the middle.

  • Wor Lass

    Ki has earned his place in the starting 11 with his last two appearances but I think Diame is vital to our style of play and he`s been better since Ki came in. Kenedy is starting to look more likely in the last few games so I would stick with him. The man who could maybe use a rest and a bit of competition is Ritchie. He runs around as much as ever but there seems to be less and less end product from him and he seems to leave Yedlin exposed at times. I`m just not quite sure how you would set up with Jonjo, Ki, SloMo and Kenedy in midfield. Schar is undoubtedly a decent ball player but Jamaal comes straight back in for me. Schar needs to thank Fernandez for covering for him and making him look a better player than he really is – he`d struggle to outrun me, never mind opposition forwards. I`d stick with Perez and Rondon up front.