With Ki Sung-yueng off to the Asia Cup, Newcastle really need Jonjo Shelvey.
The South Korean midfielder filled in brilliantly in Shelvey’s absence, and now the former England international must do the same.
But it is against Watford where he should return, not Liverpool.
No need to rush Shelvey back for Liverpool
When we travel to Anfield, it’s already fairly obvious that we’ll play five at the back and try and get a point.
We’ve done the same thing at the Etihad this season, so why should Liverpool be any different? We won’t see a lot of the ball, so it will be up to our midfielders to get in Liverpool faces and disrupt any attacks.
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But is that really where Shelvey thrives? In short, no.
The 26-year-old is at his best when he has time on the ball, and can dictate play from deep. On his day, Shelvey can orchestrate proceedings and be the source of everything good about Newcastle. But if he can’t get on the ball, he’s wasted.
Against Liverpool, we’ll have limited possession, so saving Shelvey for the next game would be wise. That would mean Isaac Hayden partners Mo Diame at Anfield. While that isn’t an exciting pairing, it might be better equipped to try and stop Liverpool.
On December 29th, we take on Watford. This is the game where we need Shelvey. We’ll probably see a bit more of the ball, and have more chance of getting a decent result. This is where we’ll need our number eight to have his passing boots on and supply the ammunition for Salomon Rondon and co.