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Newcastle United’s resurgence due to dominant midfield partnership

Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame have formed a formidable partnership in midfield for the Magpies.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United edged closer to Premier League safety with a vital win over fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town. The rest of the results at the bottom of the table went for the Magpies and the gap to the relegation zone has increased to seven points.

Although Rafa Benitez will know the job isn’t done yet, his team took a huge step over the weekend and will know that a couple more positive results will see them over the line.

Towards the end of 2017, it looked perilous for Newcastle. They went on a run of form that saw them take only one point from a possible 27 available. It would have been easy for supporters to panic, but they kept the faith in Benitez and they were right to.

Since the 23rd December, they have lost only three times in the Premier League and those defeats came against Manchester City (2) and Liverpool.

Benitez kept talking about having a young squad and how they had to learn quickly if they were to compete in the Premier League. The message has got through to the players and they are now a difficult team to beat.

Their resurgence has been helped most by the form of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame in the middle of the park. It was an unlikely partnership, with both players being seen as lazy, but the Magpies manager has managed to get both playing to a high standard.

It is the perfect blend of power, technique, hard work and experience. Diame plays the unselfish role in front of the back four and is there to provide a shield to the back four. This allows Shelvey to play further up the field and he is more effective in the advanced role as he can create more opportunities for the attackers.

They both shone during the win over Huddersfield and dominated the midfield area against Aaron Mooy and Jonathan Hogg. Diame completed six ball recoveries and won four aerial duels in what was a dominant display.

In possession, he picks simple passes and ensures that the team keep possession. His pass completion of 88% shows that he excelled in that role and provided the platform for Shelvey to shine.

The 26-year-old midfielder was the undoubted star of the show as he ran the game and proved that he was a cut above any other player on the pitch. Shelvey has an incredible passing range and it was on full show during Saturday’s match.

He linked up with Dwight Gayle on numerous occasions and regularly picked out the forward’s runs in behind the back four. Other similar passes saw him get Matt Ritchie and Islam Slimani through in space, but Newcastle were not clinical in making the most of his creativity on the day.

In total, he made five key passes, which was more than any other player on the pitch. His pass completion of 77% is also impressive considering the risky passes he was trying to play. Shelvey also offered a threat himself, as he attempted four shots on goal and came close to opening the scoring in the first-half.

The calls for an England World Cup place will only get louder if he continues to dictate matches like this.

There is still work for Newcastle to do, but their midfield partnership has been an undoubted success and underlines the quality of Benitez. Few supporters would have picked these two to play together, but the manager had faith and has got the best out of both players.

Their combined Premier League experience has helped a young team progress, while their physicality in the middle of the park can make them a daunting prospect for opposition teams. Few midfielders will want to go up against the duo in their current form.

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.

West Ham United

Isaac Hayden wants move down south and West Ham should oblige him

The Essex-born midfielder wants to move back south and West Ham would be the perfect fit.

Mathew Nash

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West Ham United have made some excellent signings this summer, with many eye-catching arrivals. Big names like Jack Wilshere, Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko have all arrived at the London Stadium.

But West Ham do not appear to be done, with numerous other rumours doing the rounds. Whilst bringing in eye-catching big names is fantastic for West Ham, they should also be considering the less extravagant but just as important recruits.

One player West Ham should certainly be keen on is Newcastle United midfielder, Isaac Hayden.

He recently handed in a transfer request at St James’ Park as he wants to return to the south. A former Arsenal youth product, he is actually good pals with new West Ham recruit Wilshere. The Essex-born 23-year-old would, therefore, relish the chance to head to West Ham and get his wish.

For West Ham, Hayden would be a fantastic recruit.

The defensive midfielder has played an unheralded but important role for Newcastle in the two seasons he has been up north. If looking for an indicator of his importance to the club, just look at the reaction from fans to the news he might be leaving.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Hayden is a reliable, versatile and no-nonsense option that West Ham could definitely do with in the heart of the midfield.

With Cheikhou Kouyate’s talents diminishing, Pedro Obiang recovering from knee surgery and Wilshere obviously prone to injury, having another midfield option could be key for West Ham.

They absolutely must pounce on this opportunity to bring Hayden back down south.

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Everton

Everton have Lucas Digne bid accepted, a player Jurgen Klopp wanted in 2016

The French left-back has been the subject of a £22m bid from Everton.

Mathew Nash

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It appears that Everton have identified the left-back they want to sign this summer. Lucas Digne has been linked with the club in recent days. Now, according to the Mirror, Everton have agreed a £22 million fee with his club Barcelona.

Everton want a long-term replacement for Leighton Baines but decided against first-choice Kieran Tierney due to Celtic’s asking price for the Scotland international. Now Digne appears to be the first-choice.

This is not the first time that Digne has had the chance to head to Merseyside. In the summer of 2016, it was reported that Liverpool were after the Frenchman.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

The Mirror reported that Liverpool made an enquiry for the player in July 2016. But he headed to Barcelona instead. The Catalan club paid £13.8 million to sign the player from PSG, with Liverpool missing out.


“PSG already had an offer from a good English team but when we got in touch with the manager [he] told us that the player only wanted to come to Barcelona.”

-Barcelona technical secretary Robert Fernandez after signing Digne


The Reds ended up playing James Milner at left-back that season, before signing Andrew Robertson a year ago.

Things have worked out for Liverpool, with Robertson a star player last term.

But Everton will love to bring in a player that Liverpool wanted just two years ago.

Digne, who thrived at Lille before struggling to break into the first-team at both PSG and Barcelona, also enjoyed an excellent loan spell at Roma in 2015-16.

With 21-caps for France and at only 25-years-old Everton will be getting a great player if Digne arrives. In an added bonus, a little burn on their local rivals will only make the deal sweeter.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Fresh Erik Lamela could be key for Tottenham Hotspur next season

Tottenham Hotspur will hope the Argentine can remain fit this season.

Mathew Nash

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Tottenham Hotspur secured the long-term future of two first-team regulars this weekend, with Heung-min Son and Erik Lamela both signing new deals.

It has certainly not been plain sailing for either player during their time in North London. After a disappointing first season, the South Korean was nearly sold back to Germany. Lamela, on the other hand, has had to battle several injury and personal problems.

Signed in the wake of Gareth Bale’s exit to Real Madrid the Argentine became Tottenham’s record signing. Spurs paid Roma £30 million for the player in the summer of 2013.

But despite showing his best at times for Spurs and become a cult hero with one section of Tottenham fans, injuries have blighted him.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

There was back trouble first and then a hip problem. The latter kept him out of action for over a year.

After returning to action in November he started just seven Premier League games but this season could be huge for the 26-year-old.

He has already impressed in pre-season, netting a hat-trick against Southend United. After a bit-part 2017-18 season which saw Lamela nursing his way back into first-team football, he will be fully fit this term.

Fresh, fit and with the bit between his teeth Tottenham could have a different beast on their hands with Lamela this term.

Hopefully, he can discover the form he showcased in the 2015-16 campaign.

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