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Newcastle United

Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey stake World Cup claim after emphatic Newcastle display

The duo were excellent in the Magpies’ victory over Southampton.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United were the big winners on Saturday as they beat relegation rivals Southampton at home with relative comfort. The rest of the results also went their way and they climbed to 13th with eight matches to play.

Rafa Benitez spoke about 40 points being enough to stay up and his team are now only eight points away from that landmark. Their job isn’t done yet, but they took a huge step towards survival on Saturday.

The focus will be on Mauricio Pellegrino after the game, as Southampton slipped to another poor result. The Saints have won only once in their last 17 Premier League matches.

That is an awful record and one that makes them a frontrunner to suffer relegation this season. However, as average as the visitors were, Newcastle did well to put them under pressure and punish the mistakes that they made.

To a man, Newcastle were excellent and it was a team performance that symbolised what Rafa Benitez’s managerial approach is. They controlled the game and created the better chances, without dominating possession. Two players that stood out were Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

The two Englishmen have emerged as key players under Benitez and they stepped up with great performances in a huge game. They both offer leadership to the team and that is important as Newcastle have a young squad with many players being inexperienced at the highest level. That has cost the team this season as they have failed to manage matches to a positive conclusion.

Lascelles has become known as one of the best young English defenders and his performance today enhanced his World Cup claims. There has been talk that the Newcastle captain is an outside bet to make the squad that travels to Russia, but there remain a number of centre-backs ahead of him in the pecking order.

Although he has been discussed as an option, the 24-year-old is focused on keeping Newcastle in the Premier League and Saturday’s performance reflected that. He was dominant in the air as he won nine aerial duels. Lascelles’ positioning was flawless, as he completed two ball recoveries and made 12 clearances.

The Magpies have been good defensively this season as would be expected from a team managed by Benitez. They have conceded the joint-fewest of any team in the bottom half and Lascelles has been a major reason for that. Their record without him in the team shows his importance and he played a crucial role in the clean sheet against Southampton.

It would be ambitious to suggest that Lascelles is now a serious contender to be picked for the World Cup. He hasn’t been capped by the senior squad and Southgate is likely to keep faith in those with experience at international level. However, the Newcastle captain will have a rapport with the national manager after being coached by him at Under-21 level.

Also, he is a natural leader and England don’t have many of those. If he can continue to perform for Newcastle and help the club to Premier League safety, he will move into contention and an injury or two could see him make the squad. Regardless of whether he makes the squad this summer or not, Lascelles has a future at international level. It becomes more evident with every passing week.

In his role as captain, Lascelles is very important for Newcastle, but Jonjo Shelvey has an equally crucial role to play. The midfielder passed a late fitness test to start against Southampton and delivered a display of the highest quality to earn the three points. Without the 26-year-old, the Magpies lack creativity and dynamism which makes them predictable to play against.

It didn’t take long for Shelvey to make an impact on the game, as he delivered an excellent ball over the top of the defence to release Kenedy. The Brazilian still had a lot to do, as he controlled the ball and guided it past Alex McCarthy, but the delivery into him gave him the opportunity to score.

Benitez would have made it clear that his team needed to start well and heap the pressure onto Southampton. That move within the first two minutes set the tone for the game and it was the positive thinking from the midfielder that was responsible for it.

His pass success rate of 46% suggests his distribution wasn’t great, but that stat doesn’t tell the whole story. Shelvey was playing risky forward passes at every opportunity and although lots didn’t come off, they put Southampton on the back foot and caused problems for the defenders. They didn’t enjoy going back towards their own box to defend and Newcastle were often first to the loose balls.

In the second-half, Shelvey got his second assist of the game and it showed great decision making from the midfielder. He was in acres of space on the edge of the area and took his time to make the right decision. The 26-year-old eventually squared it to Matt Ritchie who struck it into the bottom corner. A lot of midfielders would have shot themselves, but the Newcastle number eight saw his team-mate in a better position and unselfishly passed to him.

Under Benitez, Shelvey has become a lot better at defending and contributing to the overall effort of the team. He completed four ball recoveries on Saturday and showed aggression in his closing down. There has never been any doubting his creativity, but the added work rate has made him a lot more effective in the middle of the park.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Shelvey remains a complicated character and he has been sent off twice this season, which shows the problems that he can cause his own team. However, he has become more consistent and he is now impacting games more regularly.

He isn’t afraid to play risky passes and has a lot of ability to pull them off. England don’t have a lot of great central midfield options and although it would be a huge call to take him to Russia, the Newcastle midfielder could have something to offer.

Neither player is likely to make the squad, but Gareth Southgate should make a visit to the North East and watch both of them. They each have unique qualities that few other players in the country have. Lascelles is a born leader, while Shelvey has an excellent passing range and offers creativity from deep.

Both are hitting form at the right time and could be good outside bets to gate-crash the squad.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Newcastle United

Newcastle United playing with fire as Rafa Benitez deserves much better

With finances restricted once again, Rafael Benitez faces a difficult summer.



Rafa Benitez
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United and manager Rafa Benitez find themselves in transfer limbo once again under the ownership of Mike Ashley, as the controversial boss continues to restrict finances.

The Sports Direct magnate has attracted plenty of criticism during his tenure in charge at St. James’ Park and he has found himself in the fan’s firing line once again following the recent admission from Rafael Benitez.

Former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss overachieved last season in the club’s return to the Premier League, securing a tenth-placed finish, but has received no sort of backing as a reward from Ashley – admitting he must ‘wheel and deal’ in the market.

“We have to wheel and deal, that is the way for us. And then we try to continue doing the right things. As soon as the price goes a little bit higher, I know that we cannot buy them.”

Newcastle United boss Benitez reveals restrictions on spending.

The issue for Newcastle is that it is certainly not the first time Ashley has restricted funds, particularly in Benitez’s spell in charge, and sees the owner go back on a promise he made in May – when he told Sky Sports ‘every penny generated’ would be available to the fan-favourite manager.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Thankfully, the Chronicle says Benitez will remain loyal to the Magpies despite the financial restrictions but alarm bells should be ringing around Tyneside, especially after Benitez told Sky Sports he had the chance to manage Spain at the World Cup.

Benitez clearly remains highly-coveted in European football and Mike Ashley’s continued desire to play with fire leaves the Magpies in a very dangerous position. After all, if Benitez does quit what manager is going to accept a move to a club where they know they will be fighting against the odds from day one under an owner who wants to jump ship?

Newcastle have been up for sale for almost a year, which the Chronicle confirms remains the case in May, but there is no signs of progression in negotiations and optimism that a deal would be completed before Christmas last year now feels a long, long way off.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Benitez deserves credit for the work he has done in the market so far, signing Ki Sung-Yeung on a free transfer and bringing Kenedy back on-loan for the season from Chelsea, as well as landing Martin Dubravka on a permanent deal from Sparta Prague.

If he can secure bargains like that with a restricted budget, then imagine what he could achieve with respectable finances to work with.

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Three reasons why Kenedy can become Newcastle’s talisman next season

The 22-year-old made an instant impact when he joined on loan last season.

Liam Thomas



Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United managed to acquire Kenedy’s services for another season, after bringing the silky winger in on loan last January from Chelsea.

During his time at St. James’ Park last season, the Brazilian showed glimpses of the genius that saw Chelsea bring him into their ranks from Brazilian powerhouse Fluminense and he will, in no doubt, be an extremely effective weapon for Rafael Benitez to have at his disposal next season.

But can the 22-year-old take it up a notch and become Newcastle’s star man in the 2018/19 Premier League season?

A brilliant manager to learn from

Kenedy will again have to chance to play under Spanish tactician Rafael Benitez, a manager who’s done and won it all.

Benitez seemed to get the best out of Kenedy last season for the Magpies, and the young Brazilian won’t find many other managers around who are invested in getting the very best out of their young talents.

He had a huge impact playing just half the season for Newcastle

When Kenedy arrived on Tyneside in January, Benitez’ team were struggling, and in a rut of bad form, the Brazilian played his part in turning the clubs fortunes around and helped his new side to a top half finish.

It is a mouthwatering prospect to think for Newcastle fans what Kenedy will achieve with the club given a full season with them, and now he has fully settled into life in the city, he may be able to make an even bigger impact next season.

Young, ambitious and highly rated

At 22 years of age, Kenedy is poised to have the best season of his career so far and his energetic style of play bodes well for Newcastle next season.

You only have to look back as far as April to see the kind of teams interested in taking Kenedy into their ranks for the new season. Sky Sports reported that Bayern Munich and PSG were considering launching bids for the winger; a testament to how highly rated he is.

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Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace fans should praise Roy Hodgson’s defiant Andros Townsend comments

The winger has been attracting interest from Premier League rivals.

Max Cohen



Andros Townsend
Photo: Getty Images

In early July, Sky Sports reported Newcastle United were in talks with Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend over a return to St. James’ Park.

Yet, Roy Hodgson’s defiant comments have quashed those rumours and will be greeted by Palace fans as a strong signal to other clubs who have aimed to buy the Eagles’ best players.

Speaking in a press conference (h/t over the weekend, the Palace manager made it clear he had no intention of selling his key squad members.

“[Townsend] has got three years on his contract, and we have no interest at all in selling Andros Townsend. We are not a selling club at the moment, far from it.

“We are working very hard to keep the players we have got, and players of big importance, and Zaha and Townsend are right up there as players we want to keep.”

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Hodgson deserves praise for this strong stance, as he is sending a clear signal to rival clubs who aim to pinch settled players.

Townsend was crucial to the club’s resurgence last season under Roy Hodgson, and after Bakary Sako’s departure, the need to hold on to attackers is even more important.

By rebutting the advances of Newcastle and clubs interested in Wilfried Zaha, Hodgson not only boosts the confidence of the fans, but also the Palace players.

Knowing that your club aims to hold on to your fellow teammates means the side will be better and more exciting to play for.

Hodgson has already saved Crystal Palace from relegation, and now his stewardship can lead the club to the top half of the Premier League by keeping hold of the Eagles’ star performers.

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