Saturday’s win over Huddersfield was a huge one, with it being somewhat of a relegation six pointer given they’d have gone level with us with a win.
As it turns out, we’ve now moved 6 clear of the Terries and are now four clear of the drop zone (after Southampton’s 3-2 win over Arsenal today), however it’s fair to say there were both positives AND negatives to take from the performance.
Another big goal for Salomon Rondon – The Venezuelan took a while to get fully fit, but he’s showing EXACTLY why Rafa signed him now. He’s managed 4 goals and a brilliant assist (cross for Perez vs Wolves) in his last 6 starts, showing that he is capable of finding the net just as well as he can hold up the ball, battle and bring others into play. The only frustration now is the fact Mike Ashley refused to pay the £16m to sign him permanently.
Atsu and Manquillo finally contributing – After offering next to nothing all season, the two have upped their game in the last few games. Both did good jobs in our last away game at Everton and played their part on Saturday too. We didn’t do much going forward, but Atsu was at the heart of most of it and actually looked like he was trying to use his pace and cause problems, while Manquillo stood strong defensively and slid a perfect pass into Rondon to set up his winner. Neither should be regular starters at NUFC, but it’s important that these fringe players do their bit.
An important clean sheet and resilient display defensively – There’s been a few occasions this season where we’ve not managed games well and have been naive in our approach to protecting points (see Man Utd away and Wolves last weekend), but we never really looked like conceding in the second half yesterday. Schar has been huge, Dubravka continues to exude confidence, Lascelles put in a much needed improved display after a horror show vs Wolves and Clark continues to do a solid job when called upon.
A first half horror show which a better side would’ve punished – We may have kept it at 0-0 at half time, but I believe that was due to Huddersfield’s lack of quality. Any top half side would’ve scored when we were playing as badly as we were in that opening 45. With this in mind, we need to come out the gate quickly against Fulham on Saturday. We will be punished severely if we see repeat first half performances in our next two away games at Liverpool and Watford.
Kenedy looks lost as a left-wing back – The Brazilian had a bit of a shocker at left-back, not only struggling to track his man and stop crosses, but also showing very little composure on the ball – with several loose touches and aimless ‘hoofs’ up the pitch. It’s hard to believe that this was the only position he ever operated in when given a rare start at Chelsea, although he would’ve been far more advanced and attacking in their side – opposed to him having to sit deep and defend in this Rafa Benitez team.
Is something up with Jamaal Lascelles? – He did put in a much improved performance after his shocker vs Wolves last weekend, however his reckless lunge at Depoitre in the first half stunk of frustration; making me wonder if something is up. He could well have been sent off, and although he did recover and stand strong late on, it was a moment of madness that could’ve cost us big time on another day.
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