Jonjo Shelvey has had to settle for a place on the bench in recent weeks, but a poor cameo against Watford revealed why he’s been absent for so long.
Newcastle led The Hornets 1-0 after a Salomon Rondon goal, and the midfielder was brought on for the final 10 minutes.
It was an odd substitution given Newcastle were trying to see the game out, but supporters were still pleased to see him back on the pitch.
Some had bemoaned Rafa Benitez’s decision to leave him on the bench against Watford, but they ended up regretting he’d ever been brought on.
Just five minutes after replacing Isaac Hayden, Shelvey failed to pick up Abdoulaye Doucoure’s run from midfield as he darted into the box.
As Gerard Deulofeu whipped in a cross from the right, Doucoure skipped past Shelvey and nodded home a free header.
It was a lapse of concentration from the Englishman, and some supporters have blamed the draw on his idleness.
Newcastle fans react to Shelvey defending
Defending a lead only works if your players are committed to the task and willing to work hard. Just takes one player to stop and it falls apart and you get punished. #nufc Shelvey
— mark nicols (@marknicols) December 29, 2018
Two points dropped. Shelvey ballwatching. Gutted. #NUFC
— smiley (@smiley_nufc) December 29, 2018
— Mick Maldini (@MickMaldini) December 29, 2018
Very frustrating, that. We all desperately want Shelvey back bossing it, and then (by all accounts) minutes into his comeback he completely switches off and costs us a vital win. #NUFC
— Matthew (@BigNumberFour) December 29, 2018
Brighton, Cardiff and Fulham all winning. Terrrible results for #NUFC.
The margins of Shelvey not marking his man are the things that lead to relegation battles.
— StripedBeats (@BeatsStriped) December 29, 2018
— My Name Is Dan (@pepsi_sr) December 29, 2018
Shelvey is not ready for comeback
Prior to the match, it was uncertain whether Shelvey would even be fit for the game.
The midfielder has suffered with a thigh injury in recent weeks, only managing around 20 minutes of football all December.
While Newcastle need the Englishman back to full fitness in Ki Sung-yueng’s absence, there is no point in rushing him back.
Given Newcastle’s series of tough January fixtures, Isaac Hayden is likely to be a better starting choice in midfield.
The midfielder can offer a higher work rate than Shelvey, which will arguably be more important against higher quality sides.
It was also disappointing not to see Sean Longstaff win a spot on the bench after his cameo against Liverpool.
In Ki’s absence, Rafa Benitez needs to look to these two players while Shelvey reaches match fitness.
But ultimately, even if he is back to full fitness, he perhaps doesn’t deserve a place in the side.
Newcastle are yet to win any of the nine matches that Jonjo Shelvey has finished this season.
It’s becoming a worrying streak for the star man and he needs to be careful his Newcastle career doesn’t turn sour.