Rafa Benitez believes Jonjo Shelvey and Kenedy can help Newcastle United progress – but has suggested the Magpies must add further “quality” players to their squad if they are to move on to the next level.
At Wembley on Wednesday evening, Shelvey controlled large spells of the Magpies’ encounter with Tottenham Hotspur, creating a number of opportunities for his team-mates and whipping a free-kick off the outside of the post.
Unfortunately Newcastle failed to take their chances in front of goal, and were eventually punished by Harry Kane’s clinical second-half finish.
But Benitez was proud of his side’s performance, especially on the back of three straight defeats since securing top-flight safety, and the Spaniard praised Shelvey’s performance.
“If we have time on the ball for Jonjo Shelvey he can make things happen,” Benitez said of the midfielder, who many have suggested should receive a late call up to Gareth Southgate’s squad for the World Cup in Russia this summer.
“It is not easy to carry on with five games to play. In the games that we couldn’t win, we were very close.
“The last game against Watford, in the first half we didn’t play well, but in the second half we had a great reaction.
“Against Tottenham, from the first minute until the last you could see from the touchline they were doing what they had to do – and we deserve credit for that.”
Wednesday’s defeat at Wembley also marked Kenedy’s final appearance of his half-season loan spell, given that the Brazilian is ineligible to play against parent club Chelsea on Sunday.
Benitez has been impressed by the winger’s impact on Tyneside, citing Kenedy’s quality on the ball as a key reason behind Newcastle’s excellent first three-and-a-half months of 2018.
“He has been great for us,” Benitez said of Kenedy when asked to assess the Brazilian’s loan spell on Tyneside as a whole.
“He has given us confidence on the ball, passes, good deliveries at set pieces, and he has been very positive for the team and the second half of our season.”