Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United side head into this evening’s Premier League clash with Southampton in a quite remarkable run of form, with the Magpies remaining undefeated in their last seven outings – with five of these results coming as wins.
This form has seen the club establish a healthy cushion between themselves and the relegation zone, with Newcastle currently occupying 14th place in the top-flight standings, seven points above Burnley in 18th.
And, a win at St. Mary’s this evening would take the Magpies to within four points of their ninth-placed opponents – a quite remarkable turnaround considering Newcastle’s situation at the beginning of the year.
As such, with yet another victory all but securing the club’s Premier League status this season, Howe must ensure that his team selection is absolutely spot on against Southampton – with one player who looks to be a prime candidate for the chop being that of Jacob Murphy.
Indeed, with Allan Saint-Maximin having been ruled out of two of the Magpies’ last three fixtures with a knock, Murphy was handed a brilliant opportunity to stake a claim as a regular starter within Howe’s side.
However, the £3.6m-rated winger failed to make any real impression in the 1-1 draw with West Ham United – completing just 19 of his 31 attempted passes, losing possession of the ball on 21 occasions and losing six of his nine duels – earning a disappointing SofaScore match rating of just 6.8 at the London Stadium.
It was a similar story for the £35k-per-week forward in the 2-0 win over Brentford – completing a mere 14 of his 21 attempted passes, ceding possession of the ball 13 times and losing six of his nine duels – once again earning a rather abject SofaScore match rating of 6.8.
The player who Noel Whelan claimed has “so much ability” also proved to statistically be one of Newcastle’s worst performers in the 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend – completing ten of his 16 passes, giving away possession of the ball 16 times and losing seven of his nine duels – earning a SofaScore match rating of just 6.6.
As such, while there is no doubt that Murphy is a player who can provide a “bright spark” – in the words of Alex Miller – from the bench, with Saint-Maximin appearing to be available for selection from the off in the Southampton clash this evening, it would appear essential for Howe to brutally axe the 27-year-old for the Frenchman – as Saint-Maximin’s spark is certainly much brighter.