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This 21-year-old Former Dortmund Player Has Massively Improved Newcastle United – Agreed?

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Mikel Merino (on the ball)

The Influential Merino – How This Former Dortmund Player Has Improved Newcastle United

Newcastle United were subject to a lot of criticism for their apparent lack of activity during the summer transfer window. Rafa Benitez has made quite an impact at the club, regardless. While many felt that they did not purchase enough reinforcements, the fact remains that Benitez has improved the squad with whatever little resources he had.

Benitez is one of those managers who knows a good player when he sees one. His move to sign the relatively unknown Mikel Merino is the perfect example. When he arrived at Newcastle, Merino was touted as a low-key addition. He joined from Borussia Dortmund on an initial season-long loan but has now signed a permanent deal with the Magpies.

Merino has wasted no time in establishing himself at his new club. The 21-year-old has already shown himself to be more than capable of performing well in the Premier League. In fact, his displays so far have increased his value quite significantly.

Merino started the season on the bench, but a red card to Jonjo Shelvey saw him receive an opportunity. Since then, the youngster hasn’t looked back. He is a perfect fit for the side, as he is excellent at winning possession. Moreover, his style of football creates a lot of scope for Newcastle to launch sudden bouts of counter-attacking football, which is working in their favour.

The midfielder has a very unusually mature sense of reading the game. He is also quite aggressive on the field, much to the delight of the Magpies fans. The Spaniard is currently averaging 3.35 successful tackles and 2.34 interceptions per ninety minutes. Shockingly, these numbers mean that he is out-performing N’Golo Kante who is seen as the best ball-winning midfielder in the Premier League. The Chelsea man is currently averaging 3 successful tackles and 2.29 interceptions per game.

Getting back to Newcastle, they are still a newly-promoted club and Benitez recognises the limitations that come with it. However, the signing of Merino has facilitated a style of play that benefits the team. Their recent match against Liverpool was a testament to how good the midfielder is. Merino won back possession on eight occasions against the Merseysiders, which was higher than any other player in that game.

Having said that, there is so much more to Merino than simply winning possession. He is quite effective while going forward and provides ample support to the forwards. Benitez will be encouraged by this since Newcastle need to be a lot more rapid in transition to unlock Merino’s true potential.

He is only 21 years old, meaning he still has a long way to go. He has yet to contribute a single goal or an assist, but considering his attacking influence, that day shouldn’t be too far. Merino is still adapting to the Premier League, but it will be interesting to see if Benitez signs him on a permanent basis. Newcastle supporters will be delighted if that happens and Merino is certainly a player that Benitez can build the team around in the future.

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