It’s impossible not to miss a player of Jonjo Shelvey’s calibre.
Beyond the bare statistics, the three goals and six assists, the England international brings a balance to Newcastle United, a creativity and a measure of control to the side that none of his, albeit talented, team-mates can replicate.
It’s no coincidence that Boxing Day’s home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday was Newcastle’s worst team performance of the season, the first time they have been outplayed by a Championship rival.
Yet, Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez will not only have to get used to Shelvey’s absence - he’ll have to minimise its impact. The deep-lying playmaker has another four games to run on his suspension after being found guilty of abusive behavour to Wolves’ Romain Saiss.
Colback, a safe, sidewards and largely ineffective passer, fails to hold a candle to the expansive distribution of the former Swansea man, while Hayden is a defensively minded player by trade. Against Wednesday, neither managed to take control of the midfield battle, paving the way for Newcastle's fourth defeat in eleven games.
So recent reports linking Newcastle with a loan move for prodigiously talented yet seldom-seen Chelsea youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek are likely to intensify.
The Daily Star claimed Benitez was hoping to enhance his options by adding the 20-year-old to his squad short-term, with Loftus-Cheek’s composure in possession, probing passes and ability to drive forward from a deep midfield position certain to provide much-needed forward thrust in Shelvey’s absence.
Whether or not Newcastle step up their reported pursuit, Benitez will have learned a lot on Boxing Day. Namely that Shelvey is irreplaceable – for now at least.
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