The fears and hopes for Newcastle United at Swansea today
It is Swansea v Newcastle this afternoon and a game that already feels pretty important, despite it only being the fourth Premier League match of the season.
The points are of course all important but it will also probably give us a pretty good barometer check of how this Newcastle team can (or can’t…) compete this season.
I get the distinct impression that many/most/all pundits are happy to write off the 3-0 win over West Ham as very much a one-off, the Hammers being terrible on the day (which they admittedly were) and Newcastle handed the game on a plate (they weren’t, West Ham still had to be beaten).
A win would leave Newcastle on six from 12 points and a very decent start to the season, in mid-table and looking forward to what looks a winnable home match against Stoke City.
A defeat would mean three points from 12, down amongst the early strugglers, and pressure very much building ahead of that Stoke home game – especially with a tricky visit to Brighton following that, then a home game with Liverpool.
A draw and a decent performance is the minimum hope for Newcastle fans but how best to bring it about?
Leaving aside player selection and formation, surely the West Ham game has shown us by far the biggest factor in how Newcastle can potentially be successful this season, or at least have the best chance of doing so.
The opening game of the season saw Newcastle defending deep and trying to keep it tight, no surprise as last season’s runners-up Tottenham were the visitors and opening up against them would have been inviting disaster.
However, it was a surprise and disappointment to see similar negative tactics at Huddersfield, letting them have easy possession and allowed to advance deep into Newcastle’s half before met with any resistance. Only one goal divided the teams and Matt Ritchie was unlucky not to give Newcastle a first-half lead but the overriding emotion after that game, was that NUFC hadn’t really given it their best shot.
The commitment was there but I bet David Wagner and his coaches were over the moon that Rafa Benitez had decided to give them easy possession except in the final third.
West Ham was completely different, as the Newcastle manager had his players chasing down the opposition, especially in midfield, at every opportunity.
If memory serves me right, all three goals came from Newcastle players catching West Ham players in possession up the pitch and that meaning it was only a quick pass/cross to turn it into a goalscoring chance – serving up a dominant 3-0 win that could have been more.
Yes it was a home game but surely Newcastle’s best chance at Swansea is to get in amongst them, don’t let the opposition settle and pass it about – allowing confidence to grow.
They may have won 2-0 at Palace in their last match but weren’t brilliant on the day and their other two matches saw a goalless stalemate at Southampton and 4-0 thrashing by Man Utd at home.
On top of that, their summer transfers look good but it is very early days and they are in transition, losing the likes of Sigurdsson and Llorente, their two best attacking players, and both Sanches and Bony are yet to play this season after their late transfers.
I think player for player that Swansea have got a better 11 players on paper but the West Ham match showed that if you play at a high tempo and disrupt the opposition, you can create chances and score goals.
Yes by committing players further forward to harry and hassle it does make a more open game but I think the reality is that Newcastle don’t have great creativity in terms of making goalscoring opportunities in normal slow build-up play.
I’m not proposing a dogs of war type scenario but just a high temp performance whereby this Newcastle team can play to it’s strengths, relying solely on soaking up pressure and the odd quick break is a recipe for almost certain defeat today, in my opinion.
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