This Newcastle United player could be dropped against Manchester City
Decisions, decisions. Steve Bruce had a lot on his mind after Newcastle United’s 2-0 defeat to his former club Aston Villa last night.
Bruce was honest with the media after making the familiar trip up to the Villa Park press room after the game, which was decided by goals from Conor Hourihane and Anwar El Ghazi.
“We didn’t play well enough,” said Bruce. “They had more possession. We needed to do more when we had it. We gave it away too cheaply on the counter-attack. We didn’t find a pass when it mattered.”
That was a fair summary, and Bruce, certainly, has some decisions to make between now and Saturday, when Manchester City visit St James’s Park.
United’s head coach, without injured skipper Jamaal Lascelles, had handed the captain’s armband to Jonjo Shelvey at Villa Park.
The game, however, largely passed Shelvey by. Newcastle, in Bruce’s view, were too “passive” in the first half. They didn’t press Villa, who themselves harried and hustled United whenever they didn’t have the ball.
Bruce’s side will need to do the same to City, but is that Shelvey’s game? Bruce has Sean Longstaff available from suspension, and the 22-year-old is a strong contender to start against the Premier League champions. There’s also a case for his younger brother Matty’s inclusion given his athleticism.
The midfield must be right for the visit of Pep Guardiola’s side, beaten 2-1 at St James’s Park last season.
Shelvey earned the armband with his performances against West Ham United and Bournemouth, but did he do enough to keep his place, let alone the captaincy? That’s a decision Bruce must make, though Longstaff, surely, will be recalled to the starting XI.
Bruce has other decisions to make. Is it time for Joelinton to be taken out of the firing line? Andy Carroll is pushing for the first start of his second spell at the club.
Then there’s Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin. They’re causing problems with their pace, but they’ve been found wanting in the final third of the pitch. The guile of Christian Atsu is an alternative.
Bruce has decisions to make
And the reaction of the players will be as telling as the performance itself.