Many thanks to David from our fellow SB Nation blog Coming Home Newcastle for taking the time to chat with us ahead of Everton’s away match against Newcastle United tomorrow.
RBM: What's behind the recent dip in Newcastle form? Is Benitez in danger of the sack?
CHN: Answering the second question first, no way. Rafa is supremely popular among Newcastle supporters, so if nothing else firing him would be a PR disaster (wait...Mike Ashley still owns the club. Damn. Yes, maybe he will be sacked.)
The recent dip in form has truly been a full team effort, with forwards refusing to score, defenders refusing to defend, and the midfield lacking any semblance of shape. United has also been without many of the players that got the club off to such a hot start in the season due to injury, so hopefully getting players like Christian Atsu and Mikel Merino back into regular rotation will help.
RBM: Having not played at St. James in a bit, Everton fans will be wondering who the danger man is for Newcastle, as well as what are some weaknesses Sam Allardyce can exploit?
CHN: Newcastle's best player this season has been Mikel Merino, a central midfielder in his first season after coming over from Borussia Dortmund. In addition to being near the top of qualified midfielders in the Premier League in key stats for the position (possession rates, passing completion, tackles, etc.), Merino is incredibly responsible as part of a holding pair and is almost a magnet holding the entire Newcastle team in formation. As for weaknesses, wing defending is probably the biggest for me - none of our wingers outside of Christian Atsu are particularly interested in defending, and our first choice fullbacks (DeAndre Yedlin and Javier Manquillo) are simply not good enough to make up for the lack of coverage.
RBM: So, uh, Mike Ashley. How's that takeover going?
CHN: This is pretty great timing, because as I'm answering this question Rafa just finished his prematch press conference and indicated that we should be hearing some good news around the takeover in the next day or two, which has Newcastle supporters in full shifty eye emoji mode. This Newcastle side is pretty lacking in Premier League quality, so a takeover before the new year and in time for the January window would be incredibly welcome.
RBM: Why does Joselu play over Mitrovic?
CHN: Me and my pals at Coming Home Newcastle have been pondering this for a good long time, and have written lots of words trying to understand Mitro's case. Ultimately, Joselu is very good at doing the things that strikers are supposed to do other than score goals - he's responsible on defense, holds the ball up reasonably well, and gets into positions to be useful. I fully believe Mitro needs to not only be given starts but also the assurance that his job isn't constantly on the line. He has done very well for the Serbian national team, leading the side in scoring en route to winning their World Cup qualification group, and there would be no one happier to see Mitro succeed Tyneside than me.
RBM: Prediction for Wednesday's game?
CHN: I think that squad rotation will finally be such that we see Merino and Shelvey in the midfield, which would be a good sign for Newcastle. I am also putting a lot of weight in Rafa's comments on the timing of takeover news, so I think the side will have a pep in its step. Newcastle puts a lot of shots on target considering its possession stats, and I think if there's any day that they will start finding the back of the net, it would be this week. We still can't defend, so I think we'll see a 2-2 draw.