These 3 clear reasons why Newcastle fans seeing improvement in team
Going into week seven up against Liverpool sitting at 9th position in the table, most Newcastle fans will be more than satisfied, considering all the doom and gloom that preceded the transfer window and opening two games losses.
Until the owner changes, it’s a given that the club will never spend the money it doesn’t have in the bank. This season will be more about ensuring survival only upon which there is the possibility Ashley may just sanction spending once there is access to TV money.
A fair bit of this article was written prior to the Brighton game which had us in 4th. The Newcastle fans are realistic enough to know that a finish somewhere between 12th and 16th would be a solid accomplishment.
Rest assured this club under Rafa are not really going to go under any up and down extreme streaks like they did under Pardew. Under Rafa, the team plays the percentages well considering its well organised, rigidly prepared, to the point of game plan implementation. The make up of Rafa’s sides ensuring depth at the back will prevent any spectacular collapse. Newcastle’s central midfield is bigger, skilled and physically stronger to go to battle with the league’s top dogs.
The three clear reasons we have seen this team do well…
Firstly, he growth achieved by players especially towards the back end of the Championship run.
Secondly, quality of recruitment, however limited, given the circumstances.
Thirdly, the manager’s work with his team.
Players such as Atsu, Lascelles, Mbemba, and Hayden, have improved their game. The talent has been there but moreover it’s the mental and tactical aspect of their game where they have made considerable strides.
For example, Lascelles has eradicated his reflex mode of backtracking when an opponent’s run with the ball on the counter. He now looks to move in, close any space between him and his man. His strengths are his physicality and I felt that last season he was rather timid at times but in this run in he’s been looking to get stuck in and put in more tackles. If he continues to put in work and also his positioning on crosses, there is a very good centre-back there. He needs to really aspire to model his game around Kompany or Terry. There was the needless foul in a dangerous area vs Brighton that led to their goal but you take the good with the rare mistake, as he’s showing the initiative to improve.
There was some criticism coming Perez’ way after Brighton but we need take into consideration, he is playing in a 10 role that been recalibrated by Rafa, which emphasises more on defensive positioning, work rate and pressing.
One of the reasons Newcastle have been effective despite conceding higher percentage of possession, is that they have restricted the opposition to having it in areas where they haven’t been able to be more incisive, which goes towards him (Perez) making lot of lateral movements to cover the outlet passes.
The pressing work by Ayoze Perez is to be commended, as it has led to two of Newcastle’s goals so far and it’s to be noted that pressing is an even more difficult task when you are not playing in 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 formation which are effective.
There is going to be odd off day when his play will be indifferent but Rafa has made him more efficient – cutting out his streaky plays, getting him to be more diligent and decisive in possession. In my opinion, Perez will eventually make way for Merino in that position but this shouldn’t discount the hard work and effort he has put in for the team.
Touching on the subject of Merino…and what a coup he has turned out to be.
Rafa seems to prefer him over Shelvey as he’s able to control the tempo much better and initiate a passing game from the back. More importantly the key interceptions and defensive work he puts in, in a deeper role, gives him the advantage. Though given Shelvey’s talent and importance to the team, he has to be integrated eventually. Which would see the most significant tweak in Rafa’s system.
Mikel Merino has played key games in the 10 role for Osasuna and Spain’s U 21 side and for me is the obvious candidate to replace Perez. It will be fun to watch when the change does take place.
Shelvey and Merino playing together will be determined by the opponent and style of play. For example, he will want to be more pragmatic vs Liverpool’s front three. While the failure to break down the likes of Huddersfield and Brighton may change that against similar opponents.
All in all, I am looking forward to a decent season.
We probably would have been more ambitious had Ashley sanctioned the signing of a top forward and number 10/left-back, but it’s testimony to Rafa’s skill, he has got Newcastle much higher up the table than his more privileged counterparts.
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