10 games in, still winless and it’s not about to get any easier to get that elusive first win of the season, with an in-form Watford side coming to town this weekend.
I don’t like the phrase ‘must-win’, but the pressure on the players, Benitez and the entire football club will only increase for every week we go without one.
What’s worrying is our opponents are enjoying their BEST ever start to a Premier League season. This coupled with the fact it’s been our WORST ever start to a league season is quite concerning to put it mildly – especially when this is a game we really do need to pick up some points from.
They’ve won two on the bounce, have pace, quality and power all over the pitch and will be coming into this one with real confidence, having collecting 19 points in their first 10 games – a mammoth return compared to the three we’ve managed all season.
I’m not painting a very positive picture, am I? In reality, it’s hard to at the minute (especially after five straight home defeats and 0 shots on target last week), however I’m hoping and praying the lads turn up, get at them from the off and give absolutely everything from start to finish.
Lascelles’ new deal should’ve been the boost we were hoping for, but his comments that followed have only caused more controversy.
It may be time to put off-field matters to one side and forget about Mike Ashley for one day. We have every right to protest, and his time will come, but, at the minute, it feels like we need three points as much as we need him out.
They’ve not given us much to shout about so far this season, but we really do need to get behind them tomorrow.
As ever, here’s the team I’d like to see, followed by the side I expect Rafa to go with:
For me, Rafa has to drop Perez and bring in Rondon. Muto has shown promising signs and I believe he could be an ideal partner for Rondon up top.
Perez is offering next to nothing for me at the minute, so I’m not sure what we have to lose – especially when his unconvincing and frustrating displays have served to frustrate the St James’ Park crowd as much as anything recently.
If Rondon’s not fully fit (and I suspect he’s not) then he’ll be a late sub and Perez will start – although Rafa never seems likely to drop Perez, no matter how poor he’s playing.
In midfield, Kenedy, Diame and Ritchie were all very poor last weekend, but I’m not convinced potential replacements in Atsu, Ki and Murphy would do much better.
Ki in for Diame *might* just happen in a bid to attack Watford, but the South Korean’s defensive limitations will probably concern Rafa – especially when up against a physical, powerful and energetic Watford midfield.
In defence I don’t see anything changing and rightfully so. The back five did pretty well at Southampton last week and are not the issue here.
(4-4-1-1) – Dubravka – Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett – Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame, Kenedy – Perez – Muto.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in the Watford side:
Roberto Pereyra (LM): Has been an absolute class act so far this season, with his stunning solo goal against Huddersfield being a prime example of the quality he possesses. A tough task for Yedlin awaits.
Abdoulaye Doucoure (CM): One of the best players outside the top six for me. Solid defensively, an impressive athlete and capable of getting forward and supporting attacks too. Diame will need a big performance here – which is a worry on current form.
Gerard Deulofeu (AM): Inconsistent but a very talented player who can tear any defence apart on his day. He’s poor defensively so we could get at them if he starts out wide. If he starts centrally than watch for some runs in behind – he’s quick!
Predicted Watford XI – (4-2-3-1) Foster – Femenia, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina – Capoue, Doucoure – Hughes, Deulofeu, Pereyra – Success.
Aside from Ciaran Clark (ilness) and Florian Lejeune (knee), Rafa has confirmed that we have a fully fit squad to choose from going into this one.
Watford skipper Troy Deeney looks set to miss out, however talented midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah is set to return for them. Ex-Mag Daryl Janmaat will sit this one out, along with Sebastian Prodl and Tom Cleverley.
I can see there being a few goals in this one.
Watford’s defence isn’t the best and can be got at if we put enough pressure on them, however they look razor sharp in attack and I can’t see us keeping them out.
My heart says 2-2, but I fear they’ll have too much for us – especially if we continue to look toothless up top without Rondon.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Watford
Howay the lads!