Back to work for Rafa Benitez and a third win on the bounce.
Newcastle fans are enjoying themselves but not getting carried away with it, the United boss also at pains to keep everybody’s feet firmly on the ground despite the team amazingly/amusingly rising to fourth in the table at this early stage.
No rational person could argue that Newcastle didn’t deserve to beat Stoke City, as they should have been out of sight by half-time, with Joselu the main culprit in front of goal.
United continued to create after the break but an open game allowed the visitors to also have their chances and as well as the goal, Mark Hughes’ team had at least three other clear opportunities.
Rafa using carrot and stick on his players, praising them for another win but warning that better teams/players would have scored those chances and left Newcastle with only a hard luck story for their troubles.
The United boss says that his team are learning and improving all the time and part of that learning curve, is to understand ‘our own style of play’ and that ‘we are not a team that have a lot of possession’.
Newcastle had only 42% possession yet were easily the better team, this replicating Swansea where Rafa’s team had 38% of the ball, then against West Ham only 37%.
Huddersfield was actually the best in terms of possession (47%) but the least productive of these four matches in terms of creating chances.
Going down to 10 men in the opening game meant that the figure was even more severe with Newcastle having only 27% of the ball, giving an average in the five matches of 38%.
Statistics we published yesterday (see HERE) showed that Newcastle also had only the 19th most number of passes in the Premier League – the message overall from Rafa is to be effective when you do have the ball.
Promoted teams can have the benefit of an element of surprise but that shouldn’t be the case next weekend, up against another promoted side in Brighton.
Ironically, last season up against the best of the other 23 clubs, Newcastle had 55% and 54% possession, beating Brighton 2-0 at home and 2-1 away.
Interesting to see what the two managers and teams have learnt about each from their contests last season but this is clearly a game that Newcastle can attack with confidence on the back of their three match winning run.
“The main thing for me is to see that the team are working as hard as they are working – a lot of positives.
“The team believe in themselves but there are still a lot of things we can improve.
“If we play against a top side and make the kind of mistakes we did against Stoke, we will pay for it.
“The players are now trying to understand the way we have to play our game.
“We have to play in our own style of play.
“We are not a team that have a lot of possession and so we have to play to our strengths and we are doing that.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 Stoke 1
Newcastle: Atsu 19, Lascelles 68
Stoke: Shaqiri 57
Possession was Stoke 58% Newcastle 42%
Total shots were Stoke 10 Newcastle 16
Shots on target were Stoke 13 Newcastle 14
Corners were Stoke 5 Newcastle 7
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba, Ritchie, Hayden (Shelvey 69), Merino, Atsu, Perez (Diame 86), Joselu (Gayle 78)
Woodman, Murphy, Manquillo, Lejeune
Crowd: 51,795 (approx 1,500 Stoke)
(Phil Thompson admits he could have been wrong about Newcastle players – Read Here)
(Alan Shearer a very happy man after Newcastle went top four – Read it Here)
(The instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to win over Stoke – Here)
(Your Newcastle v Stoke player ratings Here)
(Mark Hughes’ comments Here – he was watching a different game!)