Steve Bruce must axe Jeff Hendrick from his Newcastle United squad after the summer signing proved to be a complete dud once again in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Aston Villa.
Hendrick was recalled to the starting line-up after falling to the bench for last week’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal and was given his first Premier League appearance in central midfield since November when beaten 2-0 at Southampton.
Newcastle have now only won in one of their six top-flight fixtures in which Bruce has fielded Hendrick centrally, after a completely abject performance at Villa Park that Chronicle Live summed up in one word: Anonymous.
Bruce’s decision to field Hendrick was also quizzed by The Northern Echo, who likewise slammed the 60-cap Republic of Ireland midfielder for being anonymous once more in Birmingham and questions have to be raised over his inclusion.
Hendrick’s only moment of real value against Dean Smith’s Villans came deep into stoppage time, well beyond when his number should have been shown, with the 28-year-old’s through ball finding Dwight Gayle in the box.
Gayle could only flick his effort wide as Newcastle laboured to defeat with just one shot on target from seven attempts, coming through Miguel Almiron in the fourth-minute.
Hendrick had an effort on Emiliano Martinez’s net of his own in the first-minute of second-half stoppage-time, but failed to see the Argentine have to make a save from what was only his first shot in 192 minutes of top-flight football.
Never has the former Burnley midfielder attempted more than one shot in a Premier League fixture since moving to Tyneside in the previous transfer window, with a lower shots-per-game ratio than eight of his teammates at 0.7, per WhoScored.
His lack of creativity at Villa Park was far from a surprise, either, having averaged just 0.2 key passes a game. That accounts for fewer goalscoring opportunities being carved out than 16 members of the United dressing room – including defender Federico Fernandez (0.3) and fellow midfielders Isaac Hayden (0.3), Matty Longstaff (0.4), Sean Longstaff (0.4) and Jacob Murphy (0.5).
Any hopes of a United comeback were never going to come through Hendrick on Saturday night, with the Irishman only recording one progressive carry by moving the ball more than five yards. Instead, 43 of his 44 carries saw the Dublin native simply palm off possession or stay static, while playing just four of 51 passes more than 10 yards, per FBref.
Bruce saw nothing of worth from Hendrick when the £8m-rated man was out of possession, either, with the midfielder pressuring Villa players on just seven occasions – no United player who started applied pressure to the home side less often.
If Hendrick starts Newcastle’s next Premier League fixture at home to Leeds United on Tuesday night in central midfield, he will only hold the Magpies back once again and as such, he simply must be dropped if Bruce has any hopes of getting the win he needs as he battles to keep his job.
AND in other news, Newcastle face a fight to sign a £7m-rated target who “destroys” danger.