Senior Newcastle duo face serious fight for futures as Benitez wields the axe
While Newcastle United have had their ups and downs during the current campaign, it looks as though the Magpies are set for a extremely positive end to the campaign.
Their recent form has been among the best in the Premier League, with just two league defeats to their name in 2018 and, prior to kick-off against Arsenal on Sunday, a three game winning streak under their belt.
The squad seem fit and hungry to succeed, and after suffering early season injury blows to the likes of key members Jamaal Lascelles, there are no senior absences other than the perpetually missing Jesus Gamez.
This upturn in form and fitness means that Rafael Benitez has had a tough decision to make when it comes to picking his side, and while that competition for places is good for the manager, it is seeming a big detriment to the careers of some former mainstays.
Both Christian Atsu and Mikel Merino, who have over 20 appearances in the Premier League for the Magpies this season, were left out completely for the visit of the Gunners – a huge blow to the pair as Benitez wields the axe.
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With no injury issues reported, their absences can only be put down to their form and performances on the training ground, and after both being regulars in the starting XI, questions must start to be asked over whether their long term futures lie on Tyneside.
Both will be desperate to be playing regular first team football but after the Ghanaian fell behind Jacob Murphy and Kenedy in the pecking order, and Merino behind Jonjo Shelvey, Mo Diame and Isaac Hayden, whether they will be able to climb back up the ladder is a question they need answers to.
With five games to go after the Arsenal clash, the duo face a late fight to determine where their futures lie – and whether that is as part of the Newcastle squad, or somewhere else entirely.
In other Newcastle United news, the club are lining up a stunning move for a man voted best in the world.