Paul Merson believes Rafa Benitez’s work ‘goes under the radar’, but claims he is ‘probably the best tactician in the Premier League’ – with him backing us to get a 1-1 draw at Wolves on Monday night.
His comments come as a surprise to many as he is normally so negative and critical when talking about Rafa and Newcastle – although it seems to me that he’s now accepted he’s been proved wrong after our win over Man City via this so called ‘negative’ approach.
Here’s what Merson had to say during his latest prediction piece for Sky ahead of our trip to Wolves:
“Rafa Benitez is tactically very good, he goes under the radar, but tactically he is probably the best in the Premier League. He gets results against Man City, so they will be hard to beat.
“Wolves, though, struggle against teams that do not come out against them and they get frustrated – they lost at home at a canter to the bottom club, Huddersfield, so this could a difficult game for them.
“Benitez will have seen that and will not open up against them – if this turned into a ‘you have a shot, we have a shot’ match, I would dread to think what the score would be. They will be five at the back, will not move and they will wait for a set play from Matt Ritchie, who is good at them, a little bit of guile, and I could see them getting something from this game.”
He has slated Rafa’s defensive approach on more than one occasion this season, but it’s interesting that he’s suddenly full of praise for Rafa’s tactics after the City win and a decent performance against Spurs.
It would of been interesting to see what he would’ve said had we not won against City.
He so often asks for the lesser teams take the game to the big boys, and believes attack is the best form of defence – but that approach against Man City would’ve seen us come out on the wrong end of a high scoring hammering.