It’s another point closer to safety, but that really wasn’t good enough – especially on a day where Bournemouth and Swansea both won at the bottom.
Firstly, there’s one thing I feel needs saying. We may have a lack of quality in our squad and I admit some of our play must leave some St James’ Park regulars tearing their hair out, but jeers when a player passes backwards to avoid losing the ball in a silly area, hounding Darlow to throw out quickly (when it sometimes looks very risky to do so!) and booing at the whistle will NEVER help our cause. I know it was a tough watch today, but a negative atmosphere only makes their jobs harder unfortunately. Rafa keeps telling us to stay behind them. He realises the significance of the SJP atmosphere. I know they need to show more to get us off our seats in the first place, but Benitez clearly realises the importance of our role and the effect we have on the players.
Back to events on the pitch and Rafa made seven changes, bringing back in Gayle, Ritchie, Atsu and Merino – who I hoped would be fresh and raring to go after all being handed rests against Man City in midweek. How wrong was I to be.
None of the above turned up and we so often resorted to long balls to Joselu. He may have won more headers than any other player in the Premier League this season, but he didn’t get much change out of the 6 and a half foot Dunk and Duffy – not that there were many buzzing around him whenever he win his duel.
Brighton were fairly organised and didn’t make it easy, but it’s another game that really does highlight our alarming lack of quality above all else. So many loose touches, sloppy passes and a real lack of quality of dynamism in the side. Atsu. Ritchie and Gayle and Ritchie were big threats away at West Ham this time last week, but they couldn’t find anywhere close to that form today despite all being rested.
We regularly reacted slowly to first and second balls and looked horribly sluggish and void of ideas or creativity. I wouldn’t say the lads looked disinterested but you wouldn’t have though that was a team with seven changes made to it!
Unideal results elsewhere mean it’s looking like a bad weekend for us. Stoke on Monday is looking huge, but a good return their and at home to Swansea on the 13th and it’s happy days again. Problem is, a performance like today just makes you wonder how we’ll muster some much needed wins – with that being the FOURTH time we’ve blanked at home in the last six home games (and most of them have been relatively kind fixtures!).
Fingers will be pointed at Rafa, but the bloke can’t polish a turd! New signings are a must next month to give us the quality and impetus we’re sorely lacking.