Why Rafa’s Inspired Team Selection Reaped Rewards

What a difference a week makes. Sunderland’s win at Norwich and Newcastle’s fine home win over Swansea has blown the relegation fight wide open again as The Magpies now lie just three points behind The Canaries with a game in hand. The goal difference margins have swung too with Newcastle just one goal worse off than Norwich.

It was a far cry from the surrender at St. Mary’s a week before and that was, in large part, down to the five changes Benitez made to United’s starting line-up. The back four was as predicted with Paul Dummett starting at left back, giving Newcastle the much needed balance provided by a genuine full back. Vernon Anita looked much more comfortable at right back and did extremely well against the dangerous Montero.

He may not be many Newcastle fan’s favourite player but Anita always gives his all in a black and white shirt and he didn’t let anyone down. Despite being slightly fortunate not to concede whilst one ahead, Newcastle’s back four defended well and recorded a welcome clean sheet.

It was further up the pitch though that Benitez really showed his tactical expertise. He opted for experience by starting Tiote and Cisse and both gave solid, industrious displays before being substituted. The true stroke of genius though was the three-pronged decision to drop Shelvey for the game, give the armband to Sissoko and move the big Frenchman into a central position. It was a difficult fixture for Shelvey considering his history with Swansea and his recent form suffering under the weight of captaincy. Judging by some fairly ‘tasty’ challenges by Shelvey when he came on, notably leaving his foot in on Jack Cork twice, it was a masterful piece of management to start with Colback in midfield to take the heat off Shelvey.

It also allowed Benitez to inspire a performance from Sissoko by giving him the armband and placing him in his preferred central role. Sissoko responded by giving his best performance of the season and scoring his first goal of the campaign.

Mitrovic came off the bench to provide a stunning performance, contributing significantly to Newcastle’s second and third goals. He seems to be at his best when impacting late from the bench. Andros Townsend was a threat all game and thoroughly deserved his goal. Interestingly he was the only January signing to start the game. He was probably the best player on the pitch and is in great form heading into the final five games of the season.

The great escape could be back on if Newcastle can build on this tremendous victory. We knew they had quality, now we know that some of them at least, have fire in their bellies too. Hopefully this win will give them confidence and momentum. Attention turns to Tuesday night now as Newcastle bid to close the gap and save their season.

21 thoughts on “Why Rafa’s Inspired Team Selection Reaped Rewards

  1. I think Rafa proved why he is a top class manager in this team selection. Personally I don’t think Pardew, Carver or McClaren would have had the bottle to drop Shelvey and Mitrovic.
    But Rafa used the players in his squad and got the balance right IMO.

    I’m a big fan of Shelveys ability on the ball, but I think he’s looked a bit lost lately. I don’t know if that fitting into a new team, the strains of a relegation battle, the added responsibility of the captaincy or a bit of all of those things.
    But for me he hasn’t been as effective as I hoped he’d be – I’m sure he’ll come good and he’s still created goals for us since he’s came so I’m not slating the lad.
    But I think Rafa knew this game might be a bit distracting for him, and I think protected him a bit by not playing him.

    I thought Cisse did well enough up front and linked up well with the 3 behind him. But Rafa made the change at the right time & gave Mitrovic enough time to influence the game.

    I think Rafas use of subs is a noticeable improvement as well.

    I hope that City choose to rest Aguero & De Bryne tomorrow, coz those 2 alone will hugely exploit our defence I think.

    Personally – I’d sacrifice Gini for another holding midfielder tomorrow and play Colback, Tiote & Shelvey with Sissoko & Townsend either side of Cisse again. Then make the changes with Mit coming on later in the game.


  2. Nasri is out and not likely Sterling will start.

    I agree Sharpy. Rafa looks at each game, not just on previous performances. Remember McClaren picking the same team away to Everton just because we best WBA at home? Kept Aarons at left back…


  3. Thanks, good read SRF.
    Much better display Saturday, thought Anita did really well and I would keep him at RB now even if Janmaat is fit again. Janmaat goes awol too much for my liking. I also agree on Mitro and I said on Saturday that he seems more of a super sub. He comes on all fired up and full of energy just when defences are tiring. Not still not convinced on Sissoko, that was his first goal since he helped keep us up last game of last season, but if giving him the armband and a central position improves his game then I can’t complain. Big big test on Tuesday and I do fear our mini revival will be snuffed out by a resurgent City who look a totally different team with Nasri and the gifted De Bruyne back in the team. Norwich never had to face them when they got their point out the game, at a time when we were also due to face them. Still thems the breaks as they say and we just have to defend for our lives Tuesday night, will be over the moon with a point and a clean sheet. Here’s hoping Norwich and Scum go on a lousy run, cause that could yet be our best route to safety.


  4. Kim – I agree, I thought Anita & Dummett improved our defence at the weekend. But like Leicesters back line, we had 4 defenders who played as more of a unit. They held their positions pretty well & focused on just defending.
    I really like Mbemba & Lacselles at CB and having fullbacks that just defend should hopefully improve things. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just get rid & allow the rest to get back & defend in numbers – no silly risks or cute passes. If in doubt, knock it out – that’s how Leicester have done it this season and it’s worked to good affect for them.


  5. Sharpy aye mate, I keep saying it but I like defenders to defend first and foremost , got to master that craft above anything else.


  6. Kim – as a former CB myself, that’s my view as well. I love watching Huth coz that’s the type of defender I was, but I could pass the ball as well when I wanted to.
    My trouble was I was I get a bit hot headed at times. I was decent I just let emotion take over too often 😆


  7. We are the only game Tuesday, does that mean we are on National UK TV? I get a bit of a sinking feeling when we are the featured game.

    Kim: I think Pellegrini told Nasri that he will not play him until he gets a proper haircut.


  8. Sharpy 😆 Did you not master the scary stare then?

    Eric, aye that’s one minging barnet like. 😆 I thought it went out with kaJagoogoo


  9. With everybody rightly focused on relegation and Leicester, something else happened yesterday – an actual contest is developing for the La Liga title.


  10. Seriously, How many times have the top teams come to SJP and give us a good hiding?

    These games are usually always close and we often put up a good show.

    I really don’t expect a tanking and I expect it to be close.


  11. Kim – not at all, I just used to laugh whenever I tried. I did master the sly digs and ability to get into the CFs head though – I used to enjoy that. I had a kid along side me who was quick as a whippet so made my job a lot easier.


  12. Bernstein & King resign from Villa 😯

    They’ve only been there a matter of weeks haven’t they?!.
    God that club is a real mess.

    Could we impode in a similar way if we go down? 😕


  13. Sharpy: I think Carr and the U21 staff are gone regardless. If Charnley can put the blame for Carver, McClaren and signings on Carr he might survive as the finance guru and contract negotiator because he should never have been involved in football decisions in the first place.

    Stuart: Man City are the top team we have struggled most with though. I looked up the team that we played against them earlier in the season and only 4 of them played on Saturday. I think what I am saying is that the 6-0 may not be a precedent because we will put out a much different side. Hopefully they will rest Aguero, thinking that it is only NUFC!


  14. Sharpy17:
    Bernstein & King resign from Villa

    They’ve only been there a matter of weeks haven’t they?!.
    God that club is a real mess.

    Could we impode in a similar way if we go down?

    I don’t know about implode but I wish Ashley would explode 🙂


  15. Eric – if Charnley can convince Rafa to stay then that might save him – credit to him for getting him in the first place – but that doesn’t clear all his previous misdoings. The rest you mention I can live with going – even Pedro. Loved him as a player, but I’d put Cathro with the young uns personally.


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