Rafa Benitez was presented with a new challenge on Saturday.
A few others have tried it to a limited extent but Rotherham were the first opposition this season to try and closely man-mark Jonjo Shelvey every step of the way.
Ironically, it was Newcastle fan Will Vaulks who was tasked with the job and to be fair, Jonjo Shelvey’s influence wasn’t that great in the first half.
Rafa Benitez says that once Newcastle scored the plan was redundant but then you could pretty much say that about nearly every negative formation NUFC have come up against this season.
If Newcastle break them down and score the first goal then we win pretty much every time (Villa and Forest away the exceptions), whereas if Rafa’s players struggle to break down the opposition and end up leaking a goal first, then you can expect a defeat (apart from Forest, the six other Championship losses saw the opposition score first, with Newcastle failing to score at all in five of those).
I’m sure other clubs will have been watching what Rotherham boss Paul Warne did on Saturday and will maybe fancy the man-marking of Shelvey being even more effective if relying on a group of players better than rock bottom Rotherham.
Maybe no coincidence that when Jonjo Shelvey did unlock Saturday’s opponents, it was in a dead ball situation where he wasn’t being hassled, his pinpoint long ball picking out Yedlin and his excellent first time knock down finding Murphy who did the rest.
After that it was plain sailing but you do wonder what would have happened if Rotherham had reached half-time goalless and got their breath back, or even worse had gone in with a lead from the bizarre ‘penalty’/Karl Darlow amazing save incident.
It is annoying for any talented ball player to have somebody whose only job is to try and stop them but hopefully Jonjo Shelvey is more ready next time to stamp his quality on anybody who tries it in the future.
After the goal and then another straight after half-time, Rotherham were broken and their players definitely felt their legs going without the inspiration of something to hang onto when it was goalless. Subsequently, Shelvey’s impact increased as the game wore on and he had the freedom of St James Park as the game drew to a close.
“Each one has his own tactics.
“He (Will Vaulks) will be happy with what he was doing (man marking Jonjo Shelvey) before (Newcastle scored) but once we score and if they stay focused on one player, then others can score.
“Maybe you have to manage it in a different way but maybe it is fine for them (the opposition).
“In the end, football is eleven against eleven and that is the important thing.
“You must remember that you can have other players that make the difference, like Matt Ritchie did.”
(Read the instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to today’s win HERE)
(Read HERE what visiting boss Paul Warne had to say about the game)