Former Arsenal defender and current Match of the Day pundit Martin Keown has heaped praise on the current Newcastle United squad, believing we are a good young side and look like we now ‘belong’ in the Premier League.
It has so often felt like pundits have been waiting for us to slip up this season, with so many of the so called ‘experts’ expecting us to struggle early on.
Initially they had reason to believe we’d struggle, with Benitez frustrated by the lack of signings and our playing squad looking decidedly average, however our organisation, effort levels and discipline as a team has been second to none so far and deserve real praise.
Here’s what Keown had to say about us in his assessment of our 2-2 draw at Southampton on Match of the Day 2 last night:
“Newcastle are a very young side but the spine of the side: Lascelles, Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden in there, every one of their players looks pretty comfortable.
“They look like now they belong in the Premier League. You couldn’t say that before about some of the Newcastle teams in the past, looked haphazard at times. There is a structure to the way they play, Shelvey at the centre of everything.
“Everybody wants the ball now in a Newcastle shirt.
“A threat going forward – Matt Ritchie, I think a lot more to come from him.”
Keown was clearly impressed by several individuals in the team during yesterday’s game, but also made reference to our play as a team, believing we managed the ball well and got bodies forward when we need to:
“It really impressed me that they managed the ball really well: comfortable passing, linking up, control. They are not out of their depth and they are probing all of the time – they have got lots of bodies in the final third.
“The movement for the (second) goal, you are not watching Manchester City by the way, but you have Yedlin coming out (with the ball) from the back, then Shelvey – a punishing pass, right into the heart of the opposition.
“Then they have willing runners, making the movement off the ball. Perez gets a little bit lucky, keeper should do better. Beautiful the way they played that.
“18 shots on goal, their most this season. Newcastle are making things happen, they now believe it.”
Finally, Keown then gave Florian Lejeune some well deserved praise despite his ‘stupid’ error to give away the penalty, stating the Frenchman looks like a ‘really good signing’:
“Lejeune came in for Ciaran Clark and there is no rocket science about this, but he gets his head to most things.
“Southampton played two up top today and he had to make good decisions early, and this impressed me.
“He throws everything at Gabbiadini to stop him scoring (in the first half) and mops up well.
“He doesn’t panic, he stays on his feet and he reads things well.
“(The penalty) was stupid and rash, but he was still up for it and nearly won the game for his team and I like that character about him. He looks a really good signing.”
Some good points from Keown and a refreshing piece of well deserved praise from a pundit.
Benitez deserves so many plaudits, but it’s also nice to see the players take a great deal of credit here. They’ve worked their socks off so far this season and deserve every success given their application and ability to follow Benitez’s strict instructions.