It isn’t so much the wheels have fallen off for Rafa Benitez, more a case of his team hitting a few more potholes of late.
With four defeats in the last nine Championship games, including two in the last three, the Newcastle boss will be looking for a big performance from his players at Brentford.
Whilst obviously, like the rest of us, Rafa will hope for three points, I think his aim and expectation will be simply to make sure of the draw and another point on the total.
The away form has been unbelievable and nine wins from 12 is exceptional in anybody’s book – but I reckon Rafa Benitez will, like the regular travelling fans, know that at times his players have ridden their luck and picked up wins with pretty much goals from the only decent chances – Bristol City, Burton and one or two others for sure.
That is not to take anything away from the team and especially the defending but I think fair to say that apart from Villa, we have to accept that the Gods have been on our side generally.
Rafa Benitez recently said that his players need to learn how to draw more, referring to games such as Sheffield Wednesday, where when the team aren’t at their best they maybe have to just make sure they don’t give anything away by chasing the result.
My feeling is that Rafa will have drilled into his team today this simple message – don’t get beat.
I think he would happily take 0-0 if offered that pre-match and then look forward to move on and get six points from two very winnable home matches against QPR and Rotherham.
Then with the African Cup of Nations players returning, Jonjo Shelvey back up to full speed, plus one or two potential new signings – the United boss can then send his players out to tackle the rest of the season starting with Derby and a tougher looking set of fixtures (Wolves and Norwich away, Villa at home).
A point today would be a new start and seven points from the next nine would leave Newcastle on 59 points after 28 matches.
Around 90 points is seen as a figure to more or less guarantee promotion and with then 18 matches left, you would need to win every other match as a minimum, with a few draws thrown in, surely within Newcastle United’s capabilities.
Will it be pretty today? Probably not.
Will it be effective? I think it almost certainly will.