Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe has heaped praise on his midfield trio Jonjo Shelvey, Joe Willock and Joelinton.
The Magpies are in terrific form after bringing in five new signings in the January transfer window.
They signed Kieran Trippier from Atletico Madrid, Dan Burn from Brighton, Bruno Guimaraes from Lyon, Chris Wood from Burnley and Matt Targett on loan from Aston Villa.
After winning three games on the bounce, Howe was asked what changes he has made in midfield, admitting that he went back to basics.
“It’s difficult to answer that question because I’ve got no idea what was happening beforehand,” he told The Northern Echo. “All I’ve done is the work that we think is right for the team in our current position, and with the players that we have.
“I know that sounds quite simple, but it’s a case of just getting the fundamentals right, and that means making sure the work on the training ground is as good and detailed as it can be, and making sure that the team is as organised as it can be.
“Then, it’s about trying to develop every single player to the best of my ability, and that’s always been a huge focus of mine. Whether the player is in the team or out of the team, it’s about trying to make sure every player improves.”
Howe has also praised Willock, admitting that the youngster is sacrificing his goalscoring prowess for the benefit of the team.
“With Joe Willock, he’s someone we’ve worked really hard with, and he’s shown a great attitude to show different qualities of his game,” he said.
“Joe’s naturally a very talented lad. Last season, we all saw the number of goals he scored. But right now, he’s knuckling down for the team and showing huge discipline. You could see at the end against Villa, he was there blocking shots and stopping crosses late into the game, which is hugely satisfying from my perspective to see. I think there’s just been a slight change of mentality from him.”
Howe stumbled upon playing Joelinton in a deeper role after Ciaran Clark’s red card against Norwich in November.
The Brazilian slotted into midfield and put in a terrific performance in the 1-1 draw. He has been a mainstay in the midfield box-to-box role ever since.
Howe continued: “If you ask when I saw Joelinton from the outside, did I think he’d be a number eight, tracking blindside runs into our penalty area to block crosses, then I’d have to be honest and say, ‘No, I didn’t see that’.
“The first time I saw that was the Norwich game, when he played in that role, and I thought he was absolutely brilliant that day. We’ve continued to develop and work with him on lots of different aspects of his game in that position, and I think his general performances have been so impressive, both with and without possession. That’s a huge compliment to him.”
On Shelvey, Howe added: “Then I think Jonjo’s just Jonjo. I think he’s playing his game, but he’s playing it in a very effective way.”