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‘Unpopular opinion but true – Newcastle United much better team without Isaac Hayden’

2 days ago
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Isaac Hayden turned 26 last month and is now coming up to completing five years at Newcastle United.

One of many excellent Rafa Benitez signings when in his first transfer window (summer 2016) he (Rafa) had to totally reshape the Newcastle United squad.

So many rats wanting to leave the sinking ship, so many rats needing to be forcibly removed.

Benitez signed 12 players that summer (2016) and for £4m from Arsenal, Isaac Hayden has more than paid back that transfer fee.

Played a big part in helping Newcastle United to instant promotion and always committed, has helped the club stabilise these past few years in the Premier League.

Very popular with a lot of supporters, there has even been a decent sized proportion of them who have called for Isaac Hayden to be called up for England.

I know it is an unpopular opinion but that doesn’t make it any less true – Newcastle United are a much better team without Isaac Hayden.

In many past debates / arguments with other Newcastle fans, I have regularly pointed out the feeble return Isaac Hayden gives in terms of goals and assists. Not a single one of either this season, whilst overall in four years of Premier League football after promotion, the former Arsenal midfielder has delivered only three Premier League goals and six PL assists.

The fans who really rate Isaac Hayden, say that this isn’t his job.

Well, if you are a central midfielder and you average roughly only one goal and one assist a season, you have to be pretty special in other ways to be first choice. I’m thinking kind of Cheick Tiote at his best. For me, Isaac Hayden is nowhere near that level.

It’s not that I think he’s a terrible player, just a very limited one. For me, not a first choice Premier League midfielder.

I think a big part of the problem is that Isaac Hayden stands out in a negative poor team, when it plays very defensive. Especially these last two years under Steve Bruce, plus to a large extent under Rafa Benitez, playing deep just in front of a back four / five, Hayden gets about the pitch protecting the backline, putting tackles in, challenging for the ball. Very difficult for any flair player, or at least one who is trying to play football, to thrive in that environment.

When the team is on occasion trying to play better football, I don’t think Isaac Hayden is comfortable in that environment or very productive, if at all.

What has prompted me to write this is the better results in April and at times, patches of better football here and there. This has coincided with the absence of Isaac Hayden, out injured since the woeful Brighton match. Predictably, the usual suspects in the media have gone way over the top due to Newcastle picking up eight points from four games, but it has been better. Not brilliant or significantly better, but a mixture of Brucey luck returning and getting more players up the pitch some of the time, has at least made it a bit more bearable to watch.

I thought I would look at the stats this season with and without Isaac Hayden in the Premier League.

We already know he hasn’t contributed a single PL goal or assist this season but does Isaac Hayden just basically help Newcastle play better, scoring more goals and conceding less as a team?

With Isaac Hayden – Premier League starts 2020/21

Played 22 Won 5 Drawn 5 Lost 12 Goals For 21 Goals Against 38

Average points per game – 0.90

Average goals scored per game – 0.95

Average goals conceded per game – 1.72

Without Isaac Hayden starting – Premier League 2020/21

Played 11 Won 4 Drawn 4 Lost 3 Goals For 15 Goals Against 16

Average points per game – 1.45

Average goals scored per game – 1.36

Average goals conceded per game – 1.45

Statistics don’t always tell you everything BUT I do believe that these back up my opinion of what I have seen with my own eyes.

I think having Isaac Hayden in the team, helps stifle the team’s attacking play.

Even worse when you have both Hayden AND Jonjo Shelvey in the team together. Two players that are so rarely, if ever, getting forward and into the box, meaning you are relying on the same very few players to try and create chances and score goals. Obviously, once you add Joelinton as well into the mix, is it any wonder that Newcastle United have struggled!

I don’t think any other Premier League team tries to operate with these kind of central midfielders, who hardly ever move up the pitch and so rarely play a part in flowing passing moves that take the team up the pitch. Certainly not two of them in together!

I think Sean Longstaff has done ok since returning to the team and has such a difficult (impossible?) task playing alongside Jonjo Shelvey and trying to make up for his immobility and poor workrate.

As for Joe Willock, what on earth must he think when he cannot get a game ahead of Shelvey! It is quite incredible.

Now Newcastle United are in reality safe, surely the final four matches (after Arsenal) we could do with seeing Shelvey dropped and Joe Willock given a chance alongside Sean Longstaff. Two central midfielders who can get around / up and down the pitch, both capable and willing to get into the box, one go and the other stay etc.

You are never ever going to comfortably score enough goals, let alone progress, when you have both Isaac Hayden and Jonjo Shelvey (one PL goal and two assists this season) on the pitch in central midfield.

Isaac Hayden – a great squad player to have around but can’t be (along with Shelvey!) first choice Newcastle United central midfielder(s) after this season.

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