It has been a great Indian Summer and a renaissance of sorts, given the abyss this club found itself sinking further into after a 3-1 defeat to Bournemouth with a clueless Steve McClaren at the wheel.

This only goes to show the importance the great work Rafa Benitez has done in his first year at the Club and the amount of work that will be required to upgrade it once we get to the Premier League, which I am sure of, despite yesterday’s dismal performance vs Fulham.

Rafa has done an exemplary job getting them to perform at enhanced levels, especially from the mental and tactical aspect of the game, despite the holes in the squad.

One of which is the defence – starting with the Captain. I am not a big fan of Jamaal Lascelles. He is young and has potential but if he had to grow then this was to be his year in the Championship like how Andy Carroll grabbed his. Lascelles has his strengths, he’s more vocal than Coloccini ever was, he’s physically stronger to deal with teams that play route one football, but beyond that is severely limited.

He is not a ball playing defender and opposition teams have targeted him along with Dummett, by pressuring them higher up the pitch into giving up possession. Lascelles still backs off attackers specially on the counter, giving them space to either shoot or play a final through ball, and his positioning while defending crosses is not assuring to say the least. I would vouch for Mbemba to deserve at least a couple of games paired next to Clark.

Going back to what I mentioned about the pair getting targeted into giving up possession, this has a knock-on effect in terms of the impact on Jonjo Shelvey. Opposition can either mark him out of the game, or just cut off regular service to Shelvey.

Jonjo Shelvey for me is a player who can do more damage playing higher up the pitch, rather than from a deep lying position, and that’s where he misses a guy like Hayden who was adapt at tackling and recycling the ball better.

Another factor that has affected Shelvey has been the absence of Yedlin’s overlapping marauding runs down the right flank. Shelvey prefers directing his cross-field passes more to the right side. To add Matt Ritchie being played on the left side negated his own abilities to a good degree. Ritchie has a better rounded game than Atsu with his ability to cross it using either foot cutting in he does a better job of linking with the number 10 or forward. Next game, I would like Ritchie to be permanently slotted back on the right wing.

At this stage of the season it’s apparent that we have a streaky inconsistent pair in Diame and Perez at the number 10 position.

Diame just about nudges it due to his physical ability to ward off markers and get the ball up the pitch on the counter but his passing is still suspect. Rafa doesn’t like to play two up the pitch, that is a well known fact, but Murphy can be tried out at the 10 by dropping a little back. He would do a better job of holding up play when the Lascelles or Dummett inevitably go long ball and bring Gayle in to play. I can’t see why Murphy wouldn’t be able to do it. He has played as a lone, withdrawn forward and on the wing as well.

Rafa surely won’t make wholesale changes to the playing XI but those holes surely need addressing in the summer.

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

You can follow the author on Twitter @BobbyGoa



  • Leazesl Ender

    At this point I’ve drawn a cartoon depicting Charnley with a small head and the caption ‘ the shirt doesn’t shrink to fit an inferior Chairman’…. it deliberately makes him look like a berk… unfortunately I can’t insert it as the Mag is now using the useless Disqus which comes with added American trolls to boost hits…. believe me it does.

    Anyway therein lies the heart of the problems at the club… the Chairman gets his bonus by sabotaging team building…. January will come back to bite us!

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      It already has Leazes

  • Rich Lawson

    Mbemba and Clark against Brum

  • Leicester Mag

    I find the final comment that Rafa won’t make wholesale changes in the summer astounding. This is a championship team little suited to anything other than getting out the championship. parking the bus and giving 70% possession to ANY premier league even Moyes muppets would be result in only one outcome. We lack pace, we lack anyone who can beat a man, aside from Gayle no natural goal scorer. Sure I’m going to labelled a doom merchant but if we want to avoid being a yo-yo club the job in the summer is in many ways bigger than getting out the championship

    • Cassy Martins

      Final changes to the squad going in to the last games not the summer. We need a big overhaul thats for sure

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Lascelles is Morphing into Saylor,
    he was ok to begin with then it`s downhill all the way, should have been benched a month ago.
    Gods knows what Diame is, a footballer he in not. then we have Anita, Gouffran, Perez, Colback etc
    take out Jonjo, Clark, Matt & Dwight and we`d be in the bottom 6

  • thewildchimp

    My thoughts on Ritchie are that he favors smaller courts than St. James’ Park. He can roam freely in such environments and play like an attacking midfielder positioned on the wing, rather than a regular winger. But that’s just a feeling.

    I’d play Diame or Mbemba instead of Colback but nr.10 is still a great liability in this team and probably the most important position. Well, it will be sorted out in summer, I suppose… As for nr.9… We are in a bit of a predictament for that one. Murphy is too old, Gayle not strong enough, Mitro just misses too much. None of them can really beat defenders regularly and sometimes that’s just what is needed.