Usually one of the first names on the team sheet, Jonjo Shelvey not starting could be viewed as ludicrous, but other midfield options have passed the eye test and Shelvey is a liability until he proves his composure. In addition, when Shelvey comes back, he will be tested mentally by opponents trying to get him to lose his temper again. Opposing players should be aware that another costly mental mistake by Newcastle’s new number 8 may be his last warning.
Surely Shelvey is talented enough to have a starting spot for the Magpies, but where is the line drawn for keeping an untimely ill-disciplined player on the field? The argument against immediately placing Shelvey back into the starting team is more supported now than when there wasn’t a replacement who could provide similar midfield creativity.
Mikel Merino helped the midfield tick vs West Ham and he has demonstrated real attacking prowess in his time with Newcastle this season. If Merino continues to play like he did against the Hammers, it will be difficult to leave him out of the starting 11.
What about Shelvey playing alongside Merino?
Does Rafa want to sacrifice Isaac Hayden’s defensive role for Shelvey to enter back into the team as a central midfielder playing alongside Merino? A reshuffle keeping Merino and Shelvey on the pitch together would require tactical alteration. Maybe this is a possibility for the future, but why would United drastically change their tactics following a 3-0 trouncing of West Ham. Hayden contributed his efforts in keeping a clean sheet against a squad that featured Chicharito, which is always an accomplishment to be proud of.
Coming off of good performances against a struggling West Ham side, both Merino and Hayden would be expected to start again versus another struggling team Sunday in Swansea.
In a poll by Chronicle Live, 87% of people preferred Mikel Merino to Jonjo Shelvey when asked “Who would you give the nod in the middle of the park against Swansea City?”
The opinion we now wait for is that of Rafa Benitez.