After three weeks of winning, Newcastle’s run of victories came to an end yesterday, with Brighton edging it 1-0 in a game we were second best in. A sobering defeat after our superb start to the season.
Here’s two positives and two concerns we’ve taken from yesterday’s game at the Amex:
Seeing Shelvey again is a positive sign
Jonjo Shelvey is many things but one of those is undoubtedly a very talented footballer.
His place on the bench has been justified in recent weeks, with no reason to break up a winning formula and every reason to make him learn his lesson, but it was good to see him back yesterday. As his corner kick effort showed yesterday, he’s audacious but inventive and one of our most talented players.
He has the ability to make things happen and, after Hayden’s below par display, we could just see him partner the Merino against Liverpool – a midfield partnership that has all the ingredients to work wonders. An on-song Jonjo Shelvey can damage in the Premier League & it’ll be good to have him back.
Merino looked a magnificent..again
The Spanish U-21 international has had his fair share of praise already this season, but after yet another effortless display yesterday it’s hard not to mention him. He plays with his head up, picks the right pass, pushes us forward & does the dirty work well too.
He was undoubtedly the best player in black & white yesterday & looks more & more like one of the buys of the summer. A shining light in a rather second best performance from NUFC.
Now for the concerns..
Missed chances mattered this time around
Against Stoke last weekend, Joselu missed a hat-trick of big chances but fortunately it didn’t cost us and we still went on to win. The same can’t be said about yesterday. Joselu dragged a golden chance wide in the first half and if that goes in, it’s more than likely a totally different outcome.
Premier League matches can be won and lost on fine margins and yesterday was perhaps proof of why Benitez wanted a proven striker this summer. The finger can’t be pointed at Joselu and Perez, but the pair fluffed their lines once or twice in crucial moments yesterday and that lack of quality in the final third has cost us. Hopefully Joselu can find the net soon, with his confidence likely to have taken a hit after seeing a string of sitters go astray.
Could the first goal be especially key this season?
It’s not been our style to come onto teams this season and that showed after going behind yesterday for the first time since Huddersfield last month.
It’s clearly Rafa’s game plan to sit back, stay tight, absorb pressure and hit teams on the counter, however Brighton’s opener allowed them to sit in, handing us a very different task to what we’ve faced in our last three games and one that doesn’t seem to suit us too well.
We’ve now failed to score a goal this season after conceding the first goal (Spurs, Huddersfield and Brighton). It’s tended to throw us off our counter-attacking game plan, prompting us to go on the foot, but I would suggest we don’t have too many players well equipped to unlock the door against two banks of four.
The first goal is often key, but given our game plan and questionable ability to score goals, it could be especially important to us this season.