Sunday’s win at Swansea was a big result and epitomised the current attributes of this Newcastle squad. We wanted and needed more investment this summer but there are still some positive signs of our chances of avoiding the drop this summer. What makes us better equipped than in 2009 and 2016?
An astute manager
Having Rafa at the helm is worth at least ten points a season. His pragmatic style is always better suited to setting up teams to be hard to beat and effective on the counter. We struggled at times last year to break teams down at home especially due to this. Playing against better teams who have the ball more than us suits our play.
Benitez knows we needed better players this summer and so instead, is setting us up to be hard to beat. Swansea played into hands playing from the back and with a diamond in midfield. They could not break us down and eventually resorted to playing it long out of desperation as our shape remained solid. This is a far cry from the team under Carver, McClaren et al, where we looked vulnerable from the off. We even got our winner from a corner at the weekend; a chronic failure of the Pardew regime.
Having an astute manager could the difference for us this year – the players clearly have bought into Rafa’s methods, even when he isn’t on the touchline himself!
Defensively solid – this team won’t fold
The key trait drilled into the players from Rafa is clearly a solid team shape and us being well drilled defensively. It is refreshing being a Newcastle fan and seeing a well organised team. Sunday’s back four of Gamez, Lascelles, Clark and Manquillo on paper isn’t strongest but the work on the training field as a unit was clear to see. Everyone on the pitch knows their role & we’ve shown a good collective effort to stop toe opposition from playing.
Also getting our first away win so early this season will be a weight off our shoulders. Being able to keep clean sheets and pick up points home and away will be a key part to being successful this season.
Players who care and want to be here
A big difference is we now have players who want to be here and are proud to play for Newcastle; it shows in their performances. They may not have the talent of Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Janmaat etc but they will be a more successful team. Players don’t hide from the ball, or just turn up for home games and we certainly don’t hear regular interviews about their other ‘dream clubs.’
Rafa has also signed players who want to prove a point. Merino, Atsu, Joselu and Manquillo all need game time and will be keen to prove a point after their careers had stalled at their previous clubs. This hunger will serve us well. Even the likes of Gamez – who has only started a handful of games – came in and looked excellent on Sunday. Our winning mentality from the Championship last year will hopefully help this year as well, with the core of that team still starting this season.
Options from the bench – competition for places
What we lack for in quality we make up for in competition and numbers. We delivered a great away display at the weekend and had the likes of Shelvey, Atsu, Mitrovic, Gayle, Yedlin and Aarons on the bench or not involved.
Rafa likes to rotate and the option to draw upon different players will keep things fresh and of course, competition is always good. A case in point being the form of Merino is only a good thing so Shelvey has to earn his place back in the XI.
And…finally some sense from a pundit on NUFC
Garth Crooks rightly included Lascelles in his BBC team of the week after his goal line clearance and towering header to win the game. He pretty much nailed the state of Newcastle at the moment, which is rare for pundits, let’s be honest!
“Ashley needs to get his hand in his pocket and invest properly in a team the city of Newcastle deserve. They have a great manager, an amazing set of fans and a team clearly proud to wear the shirt.”
What do you think of our chance of survival and how do you feel this Newcastle side compares to those that got us relegated in 2009 and 2016?