Why this Newcastle side are better equipped for survival this time round

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?

(Fancy writing for us? Send any articles/ideas over to us at NUFCblogsubmissions@gmail.com & we’ll get back to you!)

About Simon Riddlesden

Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.

79 thoughts on “Why this Newcastle side are better equipped for survival this time round

  1. Thanks Simon. Yeah I think we have more committed players than previously, the desire to do a job is there that’s clear to see. We still however have a couple who look out of sorts, Perez has alarmingly gone off the boil and Diame is struggling too. Not quite sure where we are at with Gayle either for that matter. Well impressed with Merino and Joselu, we look to have done two very good deals there .
    The real test will be when we come up against City, Manure and Chelsea who will not make the mistakes in the final third that the likes of Swansea and West Ham do . Liverpool also have the potential to really embarrass us but also we could easily do a number on them due to their defensive frailties . These are the real test of how well our squad is coping, and whilst I don’t expect us to beat these teams I am hoping we give a good account .

      (Quote)

  2. KIMTOON:
    do . Liverpool also have the potential to really embarrass us but also we could easily do a number on them due to their defensive frailties . These are the real test of how well our squad is coping, and whilst I don’t expect us to beat these teams I am hoping we give a good account .

    It’s been a while and I don’t post often as by the time I read them threads have developed.. but I’ve got some time and so here goes .. be gentle please ?

    I’m not really sure its too big a problem if Liverpool, etc hammer us.

    They’re not our competition and so it seems more pragmatic to be worried if our rivals tonk us. Naturally i dont want a hammering .. just trying to focus on what will count come May
    Not sure who our rivals will turn out to be but doubt it’ll be Liverpool etc. I’ll be happy to be proved wrong tho

    Stoke and more especially Brighton feel more like our competitors so let’s see how we do against them

    Think two things on our favour are manager and player desire. I see the first pundit predicting Benitez will stay .. i generlly ignore media tripe but this stood out as it was different .. no idea if hes right.

    The manager seems key and I was curious why people felt less respect for Benitez as he stayed to try and fix a broken club as opposed to going onto a team almost assured of success.

    I admit I’m almost completely the opposite and respect him more as he’s here (at least for now) and seems to understand Ashley’s constraints on him without being a puppet

    Anyhow . Just my thoughts. Nice article

      (Quote)

  3. Glos mag, of course you are right in as much as Stoke et al our our real rivals. I was coming at it more from the confidence shattering effect that a few tonkings from the big boys could have on such a young newly promoted squad.

      (Quote)

  4. I agree that beating teams like Swansea, Brighton, Palace, etc. is far more important than beating Champions’ League contenders, but I do think staying competitive in the games against the “big clubs” is also important. In the addition to the confidence factor that Kim mentioned, we need to put ourselves in a position to nick some points here and there.

    The result on any given day is far more down to luck than most people like to admit. We’re going to lose or draw some games we play well enough to win, so we’ll need to win or draw some games we play poorly enough to lose to balance it out. The Huddersfield and Swansea matches are perfect examples. Both them could have gone the other way with one change – Lascelles’ goal-line clearance, Mooy’s long range goal, etc.

    In my opinion, a big part of the problem over the last few years has been that we don’t even give ourselves a chance of stealing a draw or a win against top-6 sides, which comes back to bite us when we slip up or get unlucky against the teams around us in the table.

      (Quote)

  5. Good analysis Charlie – feel a bit like that myself. Goalie’s save v Ritchie and Mooy shot were the only two bits of class all game. Lascelles header and Mawson’s miss. Results achieved by a thread.
    I am impressed though by the new found energy and mobility that Merino brings to the team. Huge difference to us.

      (Quote)

  6. Competition places is dead right! I’ve read a few stupid articles complaining that we have “one of the smallest squads in the Premier League”! What utter rot! Actually, the opposite is true!

    What we are lacking is top class players, but there aren’t too many of those in teams outside the top 8 (CL teams + Arsenal, Everton and Leicester) really. We’ve got players with potential, but then so do the other 11 teams. Hopefully a few of those can stay with us and grow to be top players and we can keep strengthening every window. AND NOT GET RELEGATED!

      (Quote)

  7. Cheers Simon. It will not be an easy season.and we are lacking depth of quality both in midfield and up front. I’m not convinced our squad is very good. We caught west Ham on a downward spiral and Swansea have just sold their 2 best players. Early days but it’s points in the bag and fingers crossed we survive.

      (Quote)

  8. Just watching Spurs U19’s V Dortmund U19’s in some UEFA League match. Light years ahead of the set up at the Toon. We have a long way to go and as long as Ashley is here, we will never achieve anything of note or even develop the youth sides to a decent level. Depressing really.

      (Quote)

  9. We need 38 or 40pts.

    We will beat one of the top 6 and get a draw. so maybe 4 pts there

    So we have to play the other 13 teams home and away. I think we will win or lose away. no draws. we may win say 4 of them that’s 12 pts, 3 still to go. So we need 20pts from home. 6 wins 2 draws and 5 defeats. That must be doable. We again have one win already.

      (Quote)

  10. I don’t think our players are as bad as some people make out. There is some quality there in players like Ritchie and Shelvey and probably some of the new signings but it is still too early. We are at least creating chances, although our conversion rate is not that great. What we are missing is a 20 goal striker which all of the top teams have. Problem is they cost 60 million + now.

    Gayle is going to be important. If he can translate his Championship form to the PL we will be OK. I still don’t think he can be judged on previous PL games because he was played mainly as a sub. Maybe that will be his role for us?

    BTW, that’s why I predict Everton and Swans will underachieve – because they lost and did not replace their main strikers. Bony looks like Cisse where all the confidence is gone and you are left with not a lot.

      (Quote)

  11. There was a big hullabaloo about Ronato Sanches, that it was the coup of the transfer window. It may still turn out that way and if we had got him on the final day of the window I bet a lot on twitter would have gone hyperbolic. But here are the facts:

    He was transferred to Bayern as the next big thing for 35 million Euros. He has played 24 games with zero goals and zero assists. Swansea are paying Bayern a loan fee of 8.5 million Euros.

    On Sunday’s showing who would you rather have Sanches or Matt Ritchie?

      (Quote)

  12. BTW: if you cannot score or create chances in that Bayern team it says a lot. They spend most of their games encamped in the opponent’s half and feeding Lewandowski and Muller.

      (Quote)

  13. Eric, he was awful on sunday, maybe he’ll adjust to the league soon but as you say if he couldn’t cut it at Bayern, then well…

      (Quote)

  14. I haven’t seen that much said about this new bonus structure. Apparently, it is 4 million for a player pool if we stay up and 1 million additional for each place above 17th.

    In addition, there is 20 million if we win the FA Cup. I know that is a gamble most of us would take as the chances of a payout are pretty slim. If I were the fatman I would hedge it and go down the bookies and put a bet on. We are currently 40 to 1 so it would cost him 500k to cover.

    Still, if we are talking these figures why didn’t the Ashley just give Rafa 20 million for a striker?

      (Quote)

  15. And. Are these players like Shelvey who is on 2-3 million a year really motivated by an extra 100k? Maybe for someone like Aarons it would matter.

    I would be motivated by an extra 100k but I am not on 2 mil a year 🙂

      (Quote)

  16. ERIC if your mate Rooney has to give in to a divorce his wife is claiming 70 mil,so how much has the pig face got then??,the show off was giving the waiter twenty quid for for pack of fags while in the hotel with a slapper,told him to keep the change,********

      (Quote)

  17. Was just thinking,if a scum fan was bedding his sister on the day last time scum won at home the bairn would be born today 😆 😆

      (Quote)

  18. Fair points Kim and Charlie. Let’s hope benitez’s fabled acumen at setting up to be hard to beat continues and the never give up attitude from last season srands us in good stead if confidence remains

      (Quote)

  19. Our squad has some proven decent PL players but they’re few and far between. Others have potential. How many fulfill that potential is anyone’s guess. We have the youngest team/squad in the division too.

    Interestingly though, I think it will be Rafa that has the biggest impact this season. If we stay up it will be in large to him. We could see against Swansea that the work they’re doing on the training ground is coming to fruition. That’s encouraging to see because we will need to be tight in defence as I don’t see a lot of goals in the team.

    Saturday will give us a better idea where we are as Stoke have started reasonably well.

      (Quote)

  20. Apart from the performances our back up is fairly strong these days. Apart from Ritchie I’m fairly happy about who will fill in for injuries and suspensions. Mitro or Gayle to come in. Shelvey in midfield, Darlow in goal and a choice of Mbemba, Lejeune, Yedlin at the back. Aarons or Murphy for Ritchie would do but weaken us.

    Stoke will be obstinate opposition on Sat. I don’t like Hughes or his teams but a draw wouldn’t be a bad result.

      (Quote)

  21. Here’s a cheerful stat.
    Of all the teams who lost their first four games (in the last ten years) only one avoided relegation. That was Saints four years ago. So probably 2 or maybe 3 of the current bottom four will go down.

      (Quote)

  22. georgio:
    Here’s a cheerful stat.
    Of all the teams who lost their first four games (in the last ten years) only one avoided relegation. That was Saints four years ago. So probably 2 or maybe 3 of the current bottom four will go down.

    Is that in relation to the PL – and out of how many sides? I only cause another stat said Palace’s start was the worst in the leagues in 96 years or something silly – so presumably not many sides in the PL have actually lost their first 4 games in recent years?

      (Quote)

  23. shamrock: Is that in relation to the PL – and out of how many sides? I onlycause another stat said Palace’s start was the worst in the leagues in 96 years or something silly – so presumably not many sides in the PL have actually lost their first 4 games in recent years?

    I was wondering the same thing – how big is the sample size?

    Palace and Bournemouth have put themselves in a hole, for sure. But if you replayed that Burnley v Palace game 10 times, Palace probably wins 8 or 9 of them. They had 23 shots to Burnley’s 4 – if they keep playing like that, their finishing will catch up. But with a new manager, who knows how they’ll play?

      (Quote)

  24. I watched the Swansea game again a surprisingly Diame wasn’t a total liability. He made a couple of defensive headers and disrupted their play. He did make a couple of stupid fouls but unlike Ginger Jack they were in their half.

      (Quote)

  25. Eric Sykes:
    I think it is because Palace have no points AND no goals?

    Ok I researched it.

    7 of the last 10 PL seasons has resulted in NO side having zero points after 4 games.

    That leaves 3 seasons.

    09/10 was Portsmouth who did go down.

    10/11 was West Ham who did go down.

    12/13 was Southampton who finished in 14th.

      (Quote)

  26. Going a step further:

    Of the 30 sides in the bottom 3 after 4 games in the last 10 years, only 9 have gone down. 6 sides have managed to finish in the top half.

    Only 1 season saw 2 sides go down. That was Reading and QPR in 12/13.

    13/14 (Palace 11, WBA 17 and Sunderland 14) all survived and 08/09 (Blackburn 15, Stoke 12 and Spurs 8) all survived.

      (Quote)

  27. Sham: I hope that this year will run counter to your analysis and the current bottom 3 all go down:

    1. Because that will mean we don’t!

    2. Because I hate West Ham.

    3. Because of Palace fans’ trolling NUFC when Pardew started well and the fact Mr. Roy went on a sightseeing trip before the most important match of his career.

    4. Nothing against Bournemouth really, but that is a long trip to a 13,000 capacity ground.

      (Quote)

  28. Actually, when you think about it the PL needs to get more Yorkie teams in it so NUFC fans don’t face so many long trips. You have all of the London teams but now there are 3 south coast teams – Brighton, Bournemouth and Southampton – plus Swansea. Must play havoc with away fans’ weekends, especially as Sky keep switching us to early and late games and Sundays.

      (Quote)

  29. How long does it take to get to Bournemouth anyway? I have driven to London and that was a nightmare. Roadworks, then some rain, then a crash. I think it took like 8 hours in the end.

      (Quote)

  30. Eric Sykes:
    How long does it take to get to Bournemouth anyway? I have driven to London and that was a nightmare. Roadworks, then some rain, then a crash. I think it took like 8 hours in the end.

    Takes about an hour and 3 quarters for me Eric… 🙂 I’m heading there on Saturday as it happens.

      (Quote)

  31. Just looked it up on Google Maps and it is 350 miles from Newcastle to Bournemouth. They say it takes 6 hours but my guess is that is under perfect driving conditions so I would guess 7 or 8. and that is without stopping.

      (Quote)

  32. Eric Sykes:
    Just looked it up on Google Maps and it is 350 miles from Newcastle to Bournemouth. They say it takes 6 hours but my guess is that is under perfect driving conditions so I would guess 7 or 8. and that is without stopping.

    Well it takes me about 40 minutes to get to Bournemouth ?

      (Quote)

  33. Then there are the trips to the North West. Have we actually won at Liverpool, Man U or Man City in the last 20 years?

      (Quote)

  34. I was just thinking about it. A day in the life of a NUFC away fan. A bit of a nightmare. No wonder they have to get drunk. Like a 6-8 hour journey or go to Manchester to get thrashed 6-0.

      (Quote)

  35. Eric Sykes:
    Then there are the trips to the North West. Have we actually won at Liverpool, Man U or Man City in the last 20 years?

    Cannot remember what yr it was but we won one nil,Steve Watson scoring from just outside the box,cup game I think

      (Quote)

  36. Great Stoke fans eh,only taken up half of their tickets plus the were offered free travel to the game when buying a ticket,wonder when jabba will offer us free travel Mmmmm,never

      (Quote)

  37. I am telling you Rooney disrupts the shape of any team he plays in now. If he is a number 10 he comes back to his own half to get the ball and then there is no outlet. Ronaldo only ever comes back into his own half for corners. Messi does, but Messi is Messi, he picks up the ball and then runs directly at the middle of the opposition and draws 3 players creating space for team mates, beats them or gets a foul.

    I know I am banging on about it but it is not after the fact. I said it before it happened just like I predicted what would happen with England.

      (Quote)

  38. Well, since it is so quiet on here I will have a conversation with myself. I didn’t mean what I said about Rooney. Off after 66 minutes. Maybe finally Koeman is realizing what me and Icedog have said for 3 years?

    And buying Sigurdsson when he has nobody to pass to is a bit of a waste.

    I am banging on about Everton because of all of the pundits saying they “won” the transfer window and would now push on for top 6. I knew they hadn’t and that as usual the ex-players just suck up to their mates. AND, THEY ALL HATE NUFC. So, fck-em.

      (Quote)

  39. ERIC Ime stil trying to work out what Koeman tatics are,Rooney on the right,Sigurdsson playing on left wing wtf is he trying out..?,thought he bought him to play in m/f silly me

      (Quote)

  40. Ice: starting to worry that Everton might come after Rafa. They have money. They are close to his home. Would he? What would the other side of Stanley Park say. It could be comedy gold if he went there – like a Harry Enfield skit.

      (Quote)

  41. I have no idea about Stoke so will go for a 2-0 win for the Toon. They have 2 players who can be brilliant – Shakiri and Arnautvic – but only in 1 in 5 games. The rest of the time they are just sh!te so hopefully we will essentially be playing against 9 men on Saturday.

      (Quote)

  42. Eric Sykes:
    Ice: starting to worry that Everton might come after Rafa. They have money. They are close to his home. Would he? What would the other side of Stanley Park say. It could be comedy gold if he went there – like a Harry Enfield skit.

    No way Rafa would go there mate,I see Bruce is imo about to get the boot,club already sounding out one or two replacements,lost 7 out of 9 games,looks like a death warrant to me

      (Quote)

  43. Eric Sykes:
    I have no idea about Stoke so will go for a 2-0 win for the Toon. They have 2 players who can be brilliant – Shakiri and Arnautvic – but only in 1 in 5 games. The rest of the time they are just sh!te so hopefully we will essentially be playing against 9 men on Saturday.

    Well your track record is good up to now,most pundits said we were dead certain to get beat last week,you called it two nil,but was happy just for a win,hope you keep it right

      (Quote)

  44. It’s the manager merry go round , should be an employment law that says all football managers get 10 games grace at the start of the season. Ridiculous sacking guys 4 – 5 games into the season .

      (Quote)

  45. Eric Sykes:
    I have no idea about Stoke so will go for a 2-0 win for the Toon. They have 2 players who can be brilliant – Shakiri and Arnautvic – but only in 1 in 5 games. The rest of the time they are just sh!te so hopefully we will essentially be playing against 9 men on Saturday.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Arnautovic won’t be a problem – mainly because they sold him to West Ham and replaced him with Jese. 😉 Choupo-Moting has looked decent, too.

    This should be a good test, though – a team that, at least on paper, is better than us, but with us hopefully playing the whole game with 11, unlike against Spurs.

      (Quote)

  46. KIMTOON:
    It’s the manager merry go round , should be an employment law that says all football managers get 10 games grace at the start of the season. Ridiculous sacking guys 4 – 5 games into the season .

    Especially because DeBoer’s management didn’t seem to be the main issue. When you outshoot your opponent 23-4, the system is creating chances. If players simply aren’t finishing them, there’s nothing the manager can do about it. Not to mention a ludicrous backpass that results in the opposition’s winning goal.

      (Quote)

  47. KIMTOON:
    It’s the manager merry go round , should be an employment law that says all football managers get 10 games grace at the start of the season. Ridiculous sacking guys 4 – 5 games into the season .

    Aye your right mate mind in the real world of employment you only get a month or less to prove yourself

      (Quote)

  48. CP thought Palace were very very unlucky to get beat I would have given the manager a few more weeks,but storey goes the players were twisting to those upstairs that they didn’t like the tactics the manager was using,tough **** get on and do what your payed to do imo

      (Quote)

  49. Icedog:
    CP thought Palace were very very unlucky to get beat I would have given the manager a few more weeks,but storey goes the players were twisting to those upstairs that they didn’t like the tactics the manager was using,tough **** get on and do what your payed to do imo

    I can’t stand that from players, but you see it all the time. Leicester last year and Chelsea the year before that.

      (Quote)

  50. Charlie Prince: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Arnautovic won’t be a problem – mainly because they sold him to West Ham and replaced him with Jese. Choupo-Moting has looked decent, too.

    This should be a good test, though – a team that, at least on paper, is better than us, but with us hopefully playing the whole game with 11, unlike against Spurs.

    Ha Ha Ha. Damn you Charlie Prince!!!

      (Quote)

  51. Sorry, I had to point it out. Mainly, I was surprised you forgot he was at West Ham, though, because I thought I remembered you talking about him and how he’s a 1-game-in-5 player before we played them a few weeks ago.

      (Quote)

  52. I have this thing about Arnuatovic, a bit like Rooney. I watched him a few times and he can have flashes of brilliance but is sh!t most of the time. I am shocked that I forgot West Ham paid 25 million for him. Glad they did though. Because I hate West Ham.

    And there’s even more on the London Stadium. The council went into 40 million pounds of debt to help renovate it for the Dildo Bros and now are close to defaulting on the loan.

      (Quote)

  53. Charlie Prince:
    Sorry, I had to point it out. Mainly, I was surprised you forgot he was at West Ham, though, because I thought I remembered you talking about him and how he’s a 1-game-in-5 player before we played them a few weeks ago.

    It was a brain fart. I have them now and again.

      (Quote)

  54. I am pretty shocked I forgot about Arnautovic to West Ham. I specifically did not go to the Pub to watch NUFC against West Ham because I thought I might blurt out my true feelings about – East Enders, Lord Trevor of Brooking and his 10 ‘O Levels, Harry Redknapp, Fleet Street’s love affair with them, MPs looking for posthumous knighthoods, West Ham winning the World Cup for a grateful English nation etc.

      (Quote)

  55. Everton bizarrely haven’t improved their side. They signed lots of players but haven’t replaced 25 league goals from last season. Most remarkable transfer window for them.

      (Quote)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green