Interesting to note that at half-time the Rafa Benitez reaction was to do…nothing
Losing to Sheffield Wednesday was for many Newcastle fans the equivalent of the cork popping out of the bottle.
Not a case of panicking but more a healthy debate about how the team are getting on in general, not necessarily any particular game.
Probably fair to say that Newcastle have been ‘getting away with it’ a lot of the time.
Rafa Benitez has had the team playing at a certain level which means that any dip below that leaves it open to the occasional defeat.
The pattern in many games is to keep it tight and gradually squeeze the opposition, aiming to force the opening goal and then look to squeeze even tighter as the opposition look to retrieve the situation.
It is a safety first approach with also a percentage success rate, Rafa Benitez surely never expected it to produce wins every week but for it to be enough to win most matches.
Was Sheffield Wednesday really that different from most Newcastle games?
Yes they pressed a little more and cynically picked up yellow cards to disrupt Newcastle’s play but they didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary.
They defended pretty well and then scored the first goal, meaning it was Newcastle who had to come out and try to retrieve the situation.
Friday night saw Newcastle get that typical early goal but for once it didn’t really work in their favour in terms of the flow of the match, as it seemed to suddenly deflate the vigour that they had started the game with.
Even though Newcastle were increasingly poor as the first half went on and Forest equalised, it is interesting to note that at half-time Rafa’s reaction was to do…nothing, in terms of tactics, formation or personnel.
Instead he simply wound the players up to put a bit more into the game and did show noticeable improvement, even though still struggling for the cutting edge.
Rafa Benitez believes in what he is doing and now with 17 wins from 24 Championship matches why would he think any different?
Would Newcastle have still won without the red card? Who knows – but what is a fact is that the Magpies did pick up another three points.
What was it that somebody said about the harder you work the luckier you get…
Rafa Benitez is not going to suddenly change to a more Kevin Keegan/Sir Bobby form of play and try to wipe the opposition off the pitch, rather he will absorb the odd defeat and look to wind his players up for the next match(es) to ensure they are as infrequent as possible.
It isn’t total football but it is a philosophy that has worked more often than not – that is what this season needs for Newcastle United.
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