The Toon Tribune: Have Newcastle found a gem in Mikel Merino?

After observing Newcastle United’s business this summer transfer window, many among the Toon Army would have been left disappointed.

United were unsuccessful in adding cover for a number of positions, while also failing to acquire a marquee signing that many fans had hoped for; largely down to owner Mike Ashley being unwilling to spend.

However, from those new faces who have arrived through the doors at St James’ Park, one name has stood out in particular thus far – midfielder Mikel Merino.

Merino signed for United from German giants Borussia Dortmund this summer on an initial season-long loan move with an obligation to buy.


Moderate start

The Spaniard began his Newcastle career in moderate fashion as he was adjusting to the more physical and high intensity nature of the Premier League, although he did show glimpses of his talent in the first two matches of the season.

He was handed a start in the Magpies’ game away to Huddersfield, in the place of the suspended Jonjo Shelvey and was one of the only positives in what was an overall frustrating 90 minutes for Newcastle, impressing with his willingness to receive the ball as well as his array of forward passing.


Instrumental, match-winning performance

However it was in the most recent match where Merino really grasped the opportunity, starring in a 3-0 victory at home to West Ham United, which turned out to be Newcastle’s first win of the season.

Merino was instrumental for the Magpies, astounding the audience with his neat footwork and close ball control.

Merino’s first major impact on the game came on 37 minutes when he slotted through an inch-perfect ball from midfield to Christian Atsu who then squared for forward Joselu to net the game’s opener.

This then set the tone for what was a complete midfield display from the former Dortmund man who is only 21 years-old and was making his third ever appearance in the Premier League.

The midfielder’s performance consisted of a range of passing as well as tracking back and breaking up play.

Merino also produced a notable display for the Spain under 21s in their match against Italy.

The midfielder scored an excellent goal by nutmegging a defender and then opening up his body to place a shot in the far corner, beating the goalkeeper. He also racked up an assist, rounding off a successful week for both club and country.


Perfect timing

Merino’s form has arrived at a perfect time for Newcastle, given their poor start to the season both on and off the pitch. He has also added creativity to the squad, which United were missing in the absence of Jonjo Shelvey.

Now that Shelvey’s suspension has been served, manager Rafa Benitez may opt to play Merino alongside Shelvey in the middle of the park.

Merino’s box-to-box nature, complemented with Shelvey’s vision will work well in the eyes of many of the fans, while the partnership could well prove to be a solid spine for United.


Time for others to settle in

Now that Merino looks to have settled in, Newcastle now need their other new additions to act in the same manner.

Joselu has not had a bad start and scored his first goal fairly early on, while centre-back Florian Lejeune also looked comfortable before his unfortunate injury early on during his debut.

By gelling together in a timely fashion, this will help United pick up the points early on to allow them to cement themselves in the Premier League as well as reducing the need for points later on in the season.


Impressive and swift adaptation

Merino’s swift adaptation to the Premier League at a young age is the most impressive factor. He has performed well so far for Newcastle as well as on the international level for the Spain under 21s.

Newcastle have found themselves a real prospect, with Rafa Benitez unearthing the talented midfielder. Merino can only improve and develop under Rafa and has a bright future in the black and white.


Written by Dawud Arshad

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