By Russell Edge

26th Feb, 2018 | 9:19pm

Benitez's shock decision v Bournemouth spells serious trouble for Newcastle mainstay

COMMENT
Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez’s shock decision to axe winger Jacob Murphy from the match day squad against Bournemouth on Saturday does not bode well for the former Norwich City man.
Fans were left scratching their head over where the 23-year-old was for the clash on the south coast, on what was his birthday, after being a mainstay in the side for the entirety of the season.
With theories of an undisclosed injury circulating social media, it was the Chronicle’s journalist Chris Waugh who revealed that it was a tactical, rather than an enforced, decision which saw the summer signing dropped from the squad for the very first time this season.
That spells serious trouble for Murphy, who had appeared in every match day squad across all competitions until Saturday.
Arriving at St James’ Park on a reported £12million deal from the Canaries, the fleet footed star made a slow start to his time on Tyneside, battling for a role in the starting XI with established first team regulars Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie.
Given minutes from the bench on a regular basis, and always watching on from the sidelines when not used, he made a crucial contribution when starting against Stoke City, contributing the vital assist during the 1-0 win.
Left on the bench for the next match, he continued his bright run of form against Manchester City, scoring his first goal for the club with a well taken finish before dropping to the bench again for the visit of Burnley, turning out for 26 minutes.
However, the arrival of Kenedy has dented his hopes of much first team action, and after two unused substitute appearances, he was axed completely against the Cherries, suggesting he is at the bottom of the pile when it comes to the wingers at Benitez’s disposal.
None of the trio above him look like conceding their place in the team, so only injury or suspension could bring him back into contention between now and the end of the season.
It has not been a great debut season for Murphy, and without being given the chance to impress further, his hopes of nailing a first team spot are under serious threat, with a loan exit over the summer a possibility.
In other Newcastle United news, Benitez has confirmed how he hopes to tackle the rampant threat of Liverpool.

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