The basics say that Newcastle United have six points out of a possible 12 and that has put them in the top half of the table, just, in 10th place.

However, interesting if you delve beneath those basics and see how they have arrived at that point.

Leaving aside the tough opening fixture against Tottenham, which was tricky enough without Jonjo Shelvey’s stupidity, a pattern has emerged in the other three matches.

All stats from BBC Sport:

Huddersfield 1 Newcastle 0

Possession (Newcastle) 47% – Shots N 13 H 7 – On target N 5 H 3

Newcastle 3 West Ham 0

Possession (Newcastle) 37% – Shots N 17 WH 8 – On target N 8 WH 3

Swansea 0 Newcastle 1

Possession (Newcastle) 38% – Shots N 16 S 10 – On target N 8 S 4

(For the record, in the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham it was:

Possession (Newcastle) 27% – Shots N 6 T 18 – On target N 2 T 6)

So in these last three matches, Newcastle have conceded the majority of possession to the opponents, especially in the wins over West Ham and Swansea with little over a third of possession, yet still had far more efforts at goal and shots on target in each of the matches.

Even at Huddersfield, where Newcastle lost, it was still 13 to 7 in favour of NUFC in terms of efforts at goal and 5 to 3 when it came to shots on target.

The two victories telling the same story.

Rafa Benitez has made a reputation based largely on building strong foundations at the back and this has continued at Newcastle.

However, he has also managed, despite the lack of transfer backing from Mike Ashley, to make Newcastle more of a threat than the opposition.

The last three games have seen Rob Elliot face only 10 shots on target as the players in front of him keep the opposition at a distance.

Only one goal has been conceded in the last 290 minutes of Premier League football and with three conceded in total, only three other Premier League teams have conceded less in the opening four games.

Before the season kicked off I think fans were generally confident that despite budget restrictions, Rafa Benitez would be able to keep it tight at the back. However, I think fair to say that there were also worries about the ability to carve out chances and threaten the opposition.

The signs are there that the United boss may have managed to do both and certainly despite less possession, when Newcastle do have it they have been able to turn it into promising situations, with Swansea fans pointing out in particular the pace of Newcastle’s players.

I expect when we play the handful of most difficult opponents, Newcastle will play a similar way to they did against Tottenham.

However, I think in the majority of games we will see Newcastle pushing that further bit up the pitch and pressurising the opposition in more dangerous areas, which led to all three goals against West Ham and was repeated to a large extent against Swansea after the initial 20 minutes or so of just getting into the flow of the game and keeping it tight.

Nobody is getting carried away just yet but the early signs are encouraging…though it does make you wonder just what Rafa Benitez could do if he had the full backing of a decent club owner.

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



  • Paul Busby

    Possession is basically irrelevant if you cant get out your own half.

    Be interesting to see if similar tactics work against Stoke, who play a similar style of stand-off football.

    • Steve Smith

      I think the difference will be in the managers. I reckon Hughes will let his ego get the better of him and press the attack a bit more.

      • Paul Busby

        His ego didn’t get the better of him against Man U… well I suppose it did a little bit, but draw is still a decent result over what you would say is one of, if not the best squad in Europe.

        I’d still be disappointed with anything less than 3 points at home to the potters mind.

        • Dublintoon

          Joselu guaranteed to score in 90 mins. Easy even money

          • Rich Lawson

            He’s starting to look good as he picks up match time.

      • Biggs Darklighter

        It’s got a draw written all over it, however I wouldn’t put dirty tricks past Hughes, who will try to get one of our players sent off, probably targeting Ritchie.

  • Kneebotherm8

    Rafa the great tactician and motivator,does Ashley realise that ?…. I fear he doesn’t.

  • Geordiegiants

    Funny an article praising Rafas tactics, it’s normally people calling them boring.
    I personally would happily win a cup or league title boringly.

  • Sing in the Leazes

    We are excellent without the ball. Compact and organised. Hard working. And a season in the championship has made the players and fans alike humble enough to accept sitting deep for most of the game.
    When we get the ball we look like a team that has got used to winning games. We attack with pace and confidence. If we could just keep focussed and not waste so many precious chances – but still play with freedom – then we’d be excellent all round.
    If we can keep getting enough points to keep that confidence we might pull it off.
    But a bad run could see the whole thing unravel.
    Looking forward to Saturday!