Rafa Benitez opted to shift to a very defensive 5-4-1 but it wasn’t enough to keep Chelsea at bay, as they left St.James’ with a 2-1 win thanks to some good fortune.
A dubious penalty and a late own goal from Deandre Yedlin meant Joeslu’s fine header in between was in vein as Benitez ‘parked the bus’; NUFC only had 18% possession in the entire match. It is another defeat though and with more tough games coming up, it isn’t a great start for the season for Newcastle.
Pre-match discussion centred on the surprise exclusion of key players Jamaal Lascelles and star midfielder Jonjo Shelvey were left out of the opening line-up, both due to injury according to the club. Rumours continue to circulate that captain Lascelles and Benitez fell out over tactics through the week which saw the former Forest man banished form the squad. True or not, it’s another off the field distraction we don’t need. Shelvey will be absent for a few more weeks with an ankle injury accordingly to Benitez post match.
The reshuffle did mean starts for four summer signings – Schar, Ki, Rondon and Fernandez. Schar was unfortunate to give the penalty away after winning the ball and Ki was quiet in a game where we didn’t have enough of the ball to judge him fairly. Rondon led the line well with next to no service but Fernandez had a promising game following his summer switch from Swansea and looks an able deputy to the injured Lejeune.
David Luiz is a major concern yesterday, if Barkley is been dropped for Kovacic, I strongly believe same should be for Luiz for Christensen. The way he stood watching the ball before Joselu headed home the equaliser was embarrassing.. He should have reacted quickly. pic.twitter.com/YJJisn4ZmL
— MSCFC📰 (@SarrifutbolCFC) August 27, 2018
Murphy didn’t offer much in the place of the ineligible Kenedy but again, Newcastle were so defensive (Like Man city at home last season) it really was an impossible task at times for our forward players. Newcastle were a shadow of the confident aide who thrased Chelsea 3-0 at SJP on the final day last year and opting to be so defensive is frustatign when it doesnt come off. The gamble didn’t work for Benitez but we were 3 minutes away from a credible draw before Alonso forced Yedlin into a poor own goal.
It does though give external ‘pundits’ to criticise Newcastle – Jamie Redknapp being the latest to call our approach ’embarrassing’. It is worth countering that it is poor to watch and frustrating but we have the smallest budget in the league; due to Ashley anyway. It is our large crowds that mean pundits judge us differently.
We need to stay United as we have City and Arsenal next, where we could easily be in the bottom three if we allow negativity to grow. Arsenal are vulnerable defensively so let’s hope to see a more open come when they visit after the international break but for this game, Newcastle’s defensive didn’t quite pay off.