Poor defending led to defeats in Newcastle’s opening two matches and since then only one goal conceded in five games and four consecutive clean sheets, so what is the Rafa Benitez secret to sorting it out?
Rafa thinks that the team is now ‘more solid’ and making fewer mistakes, saying the biggest factor is ‘I think the key is because they all work together, they are defending better.’
The Newcastle boss says that the Championship is such a tough division and that what sums up his team’s current attitude/motivation/work ethic at derby: “I am really pleased because until the last minute the players were pushing and pushing, that is the key.”
The first three Championship matches saw Newcastle concede just before half-time and one wake up call was to drop Captain Jamaal Lascelles after the first two, something that Lascelles himself says is the best thing that could have happened for both he and the squad.
As for the winning run Newcastle are currently on, the United boss picks out one thing that is behind it: …’play with confidence, that is the key to winning games.’
It is all chicken and egg because you get confidence from winning games and vice-versa.
What Rafa Benitez has done at his previous clubs is build his team based on a solid drilled defence, which is clearly what has been at play at Newcastle since he arrived.
Despite relegation last season, after four games to sort things out Rafa had that unbeaten six game run which included three clean sheet and only four goals conceded – despite playing the likes of Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester City.
This season it has taken him two (two and a half including first half v Reading) to sort his defence and it may be a cliche but…if you don’t concede you don’t get beat.
Believing in the ability of the team to defend led the players to comfortably see out the Bristol City match and it was a carbon copy on Saturday, the only difference being the bonus Yedlin goal at the end.
Rafa Benitez talking to NUFC TV:
“Winning another game and another clean sheet, the way that we did it working so hard as a team – as a manager you have to be really pleased.
“I think they (Derby) were pushing from the beginning, we were pressing with high intensity. Then a little later we had more control of the ball and a better understanding of what to do, we had chances and were a threat.
“We were defending well and they didn’t creat too much.
“At the end they put more people there (up front) – long ball, second ball – it’s like a lottery but we defended well.”
‘Four clean sheets in a row, what has changed?’
“We make mistakes, not too many, in the first games and we conceded goals. Now though, we make some mistakes but not too many and we aren’t conceding.
“The team is more solid, everybody is working hard in defence, so I think the key is because they all work together, they are defending better.
“Even when taking the lead, we need to keep working hard because this is England, the Championship, and it is very difficult to keep a clean sheet.
“I am really pleased because until the last minute the players were pushing and pushing, that is the key.”
‘You rested a couple of players and a couple like Daryl Murphy and Christian Atsu didn’t even make the squad, was that with Tuesday night (QPR away) in mind?‘
“No, to be fair the good thing is that we have a lot of players and I have to rest some of them.
“I was thinking about every game at a time. This one (Derby) was the most important, now we will analyse how is everyone and decide about the team selection.
“It will be a tough game and hopefully the team can react well and play with confidence, that is the key to winning games.”