Newcastle slumped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Burnley on Monday night. We of course remain in a strong position in the table and sitting in the top half at this stage of the season keeps us well ahead of schedule. The main area to improve after our trip to Turf Moor is certainly our options going forward; we didn’t carry enough threat or looked like getting in behind the Burnley defence.
After another sluggish display and blank in front of goal, yet more question have been asked of Spanish striker Joselu. Calls for him to be dropped on Saturday are justifiable, but here’s why I’m expecting him to retain his place for Bournemouth this weekend
Our home record with the Spaniard up top
It is worth noting since coming in from Stoke, Joselu has started four games at SJP with us winning three and drawing the other.
He got his name on the scoresheet against West Ham and Liverpool and has, at times, held the ball up well, putting himself about up in what has been quite a thankless task at times.
The alarming part recently has been that the chances have dried up for him, but with such a good home record with him in the side, is Benitez is likely to change the team? Probably not.
Rafa doesn’t seem to do knee jerk reactions with personnel. He didn’t panic after losing our first two games and didn’t drop Joselu on the back of a 1-0 defeat at Brighton, so I’m not sure he will after our similarly disappointing display at Burnley.
He will go back to the tried and trusted team and formation, that has worked wonder up to this point at SJP, and try and get another three points against the Cherries this weekend – something we managed to do against West Ham, Stoke and Palace with Joselu up top lets not forget.
Rafa’s lack of faith in his alternatives
On the face of it, we have a Serbian striker in great form for his country and one of the most lethal strikers in the Championship last season in Gayle waiting in the wings.
However, clearly they are bot out of favour under Benitez. Mitrovic has never really gained the trust of the gaffer, due to his temper lack of consistency and trustworthiness perhaps. Rafa focuses on tactical discipline and small details and you sense the temperamental nature of Mitrovic means he is unable to fit into Benitez’s very specific system.
Gayle was nearly sold to Fulham on deadline day and has looked severely out of sorts in the brief cameos he has had this season. It unfortunately looks like he is another who isn’t quite able to step up to the top flight, however it appears as though his niggling injuries are starting to get to him. I remember seeing Gayle having a real spring in his step, sprinting at full speed to close keepers and defenders down, however he’s looked quite jaded and lacking in sharpness even during 10 minute appearances from the bench this season.
The fact Rafa signed Joselu in the first place suggests he wanted another option to give him something different to these two, so don’t expect a few poor games to change his mind any time soon.
Systems are king for Rafa
Like any other top manager, Rafa is rightly stubborn in his beliefs. Personnel have to earn his trust and it has been revealed on several occasions just how much time he spends on tactical shape and the small details in training. He has been ruthless in dismantling the squad since arriving and it is clear not following his instructions puts you out the team; Mbemba being a prime example.
He sticks to his trusted formations and Joselu has enabled others to deliver and get the points we have in the bag so far. He may not be the best striker we have had but Benitez seems to believe, like Perez, he is a big part of what we do as a unit.
His link up play and ability to win aerial duels has gone astray in recent weeks and, like any striker, he could do with another goal for his confidence levels, he generally holds the ball up well and as long as he continues to perform to how Bentiez wants the team to operate as a whole, expect him to keep his place in the side.