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Despite losing their first two games, just as they did last season before winning the Championship, Newcastle’s start to this season has been very encouraging indeed and the club currently sit 9th in the Premier League and with the prospect of better things to come.
One of the more encouraging signings in the eyes of supporters over the summer was that of Jacob Murphy from Norwich City for £12m. The boyhood NUFC fan is now chomping at the bit to be included from the start after several substitute appearances.
The 22-year-old has had a grand total of 71 minutes in the Premier League this season and despite his obvious potential and scorching pace, his opportunities remain limited. So should he start Newcastle’s next game when they play away at Southampton next Sunday in yet another Sky-dictated 4pm kick-off?
For me, the answer is no if everyone is fit. Despite the modern pattern being right-sided players playing on the left, Murphy is more traditional in that his favourite position is as a right-footed right-winger. Therefore, the person he would directly replace if getting to play in his favoured role would be Matt Ritchie.
True, Magic Matt has had a slight injury concern which has ruled him out of Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers, but the chances are that he will be back for the league game and he simply has to start. No single player has covered more ground that Ritchie this season and his quality is not in question either.
Ritchie already has 4 Premier League assists to his name in 6 games this term and it was his quality, especially in the vital 2-1 win over Stoke City, which has secured crucial points for the team this season. I would highly doubt that Ritchie would be overlooked in favour of Murphy.
The former Norwich winger’s only start this season in the league did come over on the left to be fair, a position hitherto shared by Christian Atsu and the scarcely-appearing Rolando Aarons. Atsu is currently sitting out his nation’s international games due to a knee injury which may require a surgery.
Murphy up to this point has been seen as a player whose pace can be used to better effect as a late substitute against more tired defences; a tactic I think all things being equal, Rafa Benitez would like to stick to for now.
Assuming Atsu is not available, this leaves the left-footed and right-footed options of Aarons and Murphy on that side. Aarons has not been afforded any game time in the league this season as yet but did score in his only start in the League Cup, against Nottingham Forest.
Murphy though, would appear to be ahead of the former Bristol City youngster in the pecking order and so if Atsu is not fit for the trip to the south coast, it would appear Murphy will indeed be given a start. If not then, I’m afraid he will need to wait a little longer.