'Been saying this all season' - Mikel Merino gives honest appraisal of Newcastle team mate
By Russell Edge
Newcastle United midfielder Mikel Merino has said that he found no problems in playing alongside Jonjo Shelvey against Liverpool.
The duo were named as the midfield pairing against the Reds, with Isaac Hayden dropping to the bench in place of Shelvey, who was making just his second start of the season.
It was his first time in the starting XI since being sent off on the opening day for a stamp on Tottenham’s Dele Alli, but he made an immediate impact on his return in the 1-1 draw.
He dissected the Liverpool defence with a through ball for Joselu to score the equaliser after Philippe Coutinho had opened the scoring with a thunderous strike to beat Rob Elliot.
Some fans may have doubted the ability of Shelvey and Merino playing alongside each other, with both having shown their attacking intent, but the on-loan Borussia Dortmund midfielder insisted the two could work to each other’s strengths.
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He told the Chronicle: “It doesn’t matter who plays, I have been saying this all season, whoever plays will do a great job.
“It’s true that if you play with one team-mate or another, little things change because you have to adapt to the way your team-mate plays.
“If you play with Jonjo you can adapt a little bit and stay (back) a little more.
“I was comfortable with him, it worked well. He wants to play the ball, he wants to help his team-mates whenever everyone is looking for a solution.”
Merino has established himself as a key member of the first team since arriving on loan over the summer, with the 21-year-old having appeared in all of the club’s league matches so far.
Shelvey meanwhile missed three games through suspension, with two of his four appearances having come in the starting line up.
Benitez may continue to play the duo together when they make the long trip down to the south coast to take on Southampton in Sunday’s clash.
In other Newcastle United transfer news, the Magpies are said to still be in the hunt for this reported former target.