Steve Bruce must recall Jeff Hendrick to the Newcastle United starting line-up for their FA Cup third round trip to Arsenal on Saturday in order to give Mikel Arteta a scare.
Hendrick has not featured for the Magpies in any of their last five fixtures across all competitions, with Bruce opting against fielding the Republic of Ireland international from the bench for even a second.
Newcastle failed to win any of the matches in which Hendrick did not play a role in the action, despite the 28-year-old providing one of United’s two goals during their 5-2 mauling at Leeds United last month whilst earning his 10th and most recent start of the season so far.
Hendrick had been one of Bruce’s favoured midfield options over the opening months of the Premier League campaign with minutes in 10 of their 12 matches, but now finds himself with a point to prove all over again following his summer arrival as a free agent.
Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair firmly believed Hendrick would prove to be a player Sean Dyche would miss at Turf Moor following his exit, feeling the £8m-rated ace had been “terrific” during his four-year spell in Lancashire.
Bruce, too, expected big things from Hendrick and described the midfielder as a “big asset” who is entering his peak, and must now turn to him once again to best-place Newcastle ahead of their FA Cup trip to Arsenal.
Arteta will not be scared of facing the Magpies should Bruce opt to name the same central midfield pairing which lost at home to Leicester City last time out, as a dual-axis pivot of Sean and Matty Longstaff was as far from ideal as it possibly could have been.
Sean Longstaff endured a horror show as he was overrun in the engine room against the Foxes, and even the second-half introduction of the experienced Jonjo Shelvey failed to turn the tide as he allowed Youri Tielemans to drift through unchallenged to score his side’s second of the day.
Bruce would risk Newcastle’s position in the FA Cup by keeping his faith in those who were exposed by Brendan Rodgers’ side last week, so must turn to Hendrick and offer the 60-cap international a recall at the Emirates Stadium.
Hendrick had been a creative and combative presence in Bruce’s plans when fielded in the Premier League prior to his festive omission, with the Derby County product providing 0.8 shots, 0.6 dribbles, 1.6 tackles and 1.0 interceptions a game, per WhoScored.
His long-range passing had also been at a higher level than seen from the likes of Isaac Hayden (1.7), Miguel Almiron (0.7) and Matty Longstaff (0.5) with 1.8 accurate attempts a game, and is the only Toon player other than Callum Wilson to have scored more than once in the top-flight this term.