With the transfer window closed and nine games behind Newcastle United, we can name the Rafa Benitez starting eleven for this season…
Sels, rotating centre-backs, Anita and Dummet as favoured full-backs, Hayden and Shelvey as defensive midfielders, Ritchie and Gouffran as wingers, Diame as a number ten and Gayle as a lone striker.
In most games this team has played, defence was solid and two or three goal scoring chances were created per game. Sometimes it was enough, sometimes not. We were a one-dimensional, hard-working defensive team that doesn’t show it’s finest. Results were mixed with five wins and three defeats, the first draw last night versus Villa.
Our best game came after rotation and changed strategy for that match, an exhibition of how good we can be.
Most of the fans, bookmakers and pundits agree that Norwich and Newcastle are the best teams in the EFL by far, with many neutrals putting us on top, usually because of Benitez factor.
If you ask me, Norwich are better than us only in the attacking midfield department and it’s tough to find any other team that has any advantage over NUFC, or even has comparable quality and squad size. Add the club’s reputation, financial stability, fans and big stadium to the equation. We’re not showing it, yet, Norwich does.
Benitez insists on playing with a charmless set-up that lacks mobility in midfield, physical presence and creativity up front.
Shelvey, Hayden, Diame and Gouffran, more or less, have big bodies, slow legs, don’t move or react very swiftly. They make quicker players, Ritchie & Yedlin, look like stars. This midfield is crying out for a more mobile player (Atsu anyone?).
Creativity comes from Ritchie and Shelvey. If any of them have a bad day, we’re struggling to make any threat to the opposition. The defensive minded full-backs, Hayden, Gouffran, Diame and Gayle can’t create, or are very weak in doing that.
This line-up is designed to play efficient, rather than admirable football, but it doesn’t have enough quality to play like that. Nobody on this level of football does and rare are the teams on any level that do have such calibre. We need 75% chance conversion ratio to be efficient and successful with two or three big chances per game.
It will lead to frustration after every chance missed. We can already see Newcastle United fans’ views on Gayle going from “superb” to “worthless”…And it’s all understandable.
I’m afraid that our motivation in the squad is also negative. Those on the pitch aren’t enjoying themselves, those on the bench have rare chances to show their qualities. Even if they do, they are left out afterwards. Murphy already showed his dissatisfaction.
Looks much like last season, in a weaker competition. Too much pressure.
In my opinion, we are the best team in the league and we have to improve. The QPR v Newcastle United game has confirmed that Shelvey & Ritchie enjoy more space created by two attackers in front of them and no Diame to block their movement.
Mitro proved that he can be very useful as a target man, moving centre-backs around and passing the ball back smartly. Perez showed that he savours such a situation, enabling him to run between the lines and show all his qualities. Atsu’s pace led to the dismantling of QPR’s defence. Isn’t it that simple?
Instead of playing a game of less mistakes, we have to start playing to our strengths.