Rafa Benitez must not risk playing Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey against Arsenal as the season is a marathon not a sprint.
The Magpies manager shared that he was optimistic about the 6ft tall midfield maestro (Source: Transfermarkt) being fit enough to feature against The Gunners but suggested he would err on the side caution.
Benitez opened up about Shelvey’s fitness issues and his remarks should see him come to the logical conclusion that it’s not worth utilising one of his star players in Saturday’s clash.
“Jonjo is the kind of player who wants to play in every game and he has been training, but at the same time there is a problem,” said the Magpies boss, as quoted by the Chronicle.
“The last time he was pushing and pushing and we could see in training he was not fully fit. He wanted to play, he was telling us he could. I was talking to him today, but we have to see how he is during the week and decide if he is OK or not.
“We don’t talk about his quality, we talk about his fitness. He has the quality to do it, but he has to be fit because we play against another top side who moves the ball very quickly.
“He has been carrying the problem for a while, he wanted to keep playing because he has the quality. But I remember one session where he couldn’t kick the ball as long as he liked so he stopped. I told him to stop. Hopefully this time, with the international break it has given him long enough.”
While the Magpies would be boosted by the return of Shelvey as Benitez rightly points out it will be a hard game against the Gunners.
Due to the London club’s desire to play at a high tempo and zip the ball around, it means the Magpies’ players could potentially be covering a lot of ground which isn’t going to be ideal for Shelvey who could end up overexerting himself due to his competitive nature.
While Benitez suggests that the midfielder should be just about ready to feature, there’s no need to take the risk especially when the Magpies’ next game looks very winnable as it’s against Crystal Palace.
Roy Hodgson’s side may be a tough side to beat due to their defensive sturdiness and having Wilfried Zaha in their team, the Magpies should be targeting taking all three points from that outing and their task would be made easier if a completely fit Shelvey was able to be called upon.
However given how the Magpies’ luck has gone this season then it would be no surprise if the 26-year-old was unleashed against Arsenal only for him to suffer a set-back due to returning just a little bit too soon.
The Magpies aren’t exactly playing for their Premier League lives at the moment as it’s early in the season and while there may be a determination to go all out against the Gunners in order to move out of the relegation zone, it’s better to ensure Shelvey play as many games as possible.
This all means that with there still being a little bit of doubt about the star midfielder’s fitness then Benitez should boldly choose to not risk the talented midfielder in order to ensure he has him to call upon for Crystal Palace and the rest of the matches that follow.