Mikel Merino’s performance against Liverpool was heavily scrutinised, as he disappointed in place of the injured Jonjo Shelvey.

The Magpies were beaten 2-0 at Anfield, with Merino receiving the bulk of criticism from supporters after a bleak showing in the middle of the park from the Spaniard.

The 21-year-old had started his Newcastle career in sublime form, but a back injury stunted his development, and since then Merino has struggled for both minutes and form.

There was talk of Merino leaving the club in January, but the midfielder thankfully stayed on Tyneside, and his performances early on in black and white mean he must be given another chance to succeed.

Sure, Merino was bad on Saturday night, but how many times this season have we seen bad performances from individuals? Even the likes of Shelvey have disappointed at times during the campaign, but that does not mean we should write them off completely, which is what some fans have sadly done with Merino.

The former Borussia Dortmund man looked like a tired figure against Liverpool, but you would be when you are not match fit and spending most of the evening chasing the ball while speedsters such as Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain run rings around you.

Rafa Benitez might be tempted to go with the more reliable Isaac Hayden in the middle against Southampton, but Merino’s ability on the ball means he must be given another chance to play in the absence of Shelvey.

Against the Saints, Newcastle should see a lot more of the ball, and therefore Merino can hopefully have much more of an impact. With Hayden in the team, the Magpies starting XI will likely lack the ability in possession to break down what can be quite a stubborn Southampton defence.

Merino was shocking against Liverpool, but must be given a reprieve and handed another chance to prove the doubters wrong.

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