Word came down on Tuesday that the Football Association had issued a five-game ban for Newcastle midfielder Jonjo Shelvey. The 24-year old Englishman was banned for his racially insensitive language used during a game directed at an opponent.
With the suspension, Shelvey will miss league matches against Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Blackburn Rovers and Brentford. He will also miss Newcastle’s third round FA Cup clash with Birmingham City.
Just six days away from Boxing Day, Newcastle United find themselves without their most important offensive piece, not named Dwight Gayle, for an extended run. Shelvey is tied with fellow midfielder Matt Ritchie for the team lead in assists at six.
So now, what does this mean for the Magpies going forward? First off, we will see a lot more of Jack Colback featuring in Benitez’s first team. Colback has only made 11 appearances in all competitions this season, but has played fairly well when he is on the pitch. He plays a similar style to Shelvey, even if it is not at the same level.
Colback is best suited to step up and fill the role, but there could be a serious drop in chances created. The 27-year old has yet to generate an assist this season. However, Newcastle will likely see a boost on the defensive end with Colback’s aggressive ball-winning mentality.
Shelvey’s absence could also lead to Vurnon Anita moving back into the midfield for a couple of games. Anita is naturally a deep-lying midfielder, but he has been shifted out to left back in a number of Rafa’s recent teams.
With a particularly congested run upcoming featuring three games in eight days, we could even see Cheick Tioté make an appearance. Newcastle attempted to sell him back in August, but after his move to Galatasaray fell through, the 30-year old Ivorian found himself on the bench.
Missing Shelvey in this run will certainly test the Toon’s depth and challenge many attacking players to pick up the slack. The upcoming schedule without Shelvey is manageable, but it would be a real shame to look back at the end of the year at dropped points in late December and early January in his absence if Newcastle fail to win the league.