Right! An easy starting point for the reaction to the near debacle that was West Brom 2 Newcastle 2.

Let’s get the positives out of the way first: a good away point was secured with a decent fightback and two goals were scored away from home. That unfortunately is where the positives end.

Hearing what the side was at 7pm last night, I was in a mixed frame of mind.

I was pleased that Karl Darlow was back in (not because Rob Elliot had done anything wrong) as he didn’t deserve to be bombed out and I like him a lot as a keeper.

I was pleased that Mbemba was restored to the side as he gives us a bit more physicality and craft than Manquillo.

I was pleased that Merino was fit enough to start as he gives us a lot more than Diame will ever give.

My eyebrows were raised though when I noticed that not only was Shelvey on the bench, but Gayle too, Rafa again persisting with the permaflop that is Joselu.

I expected that Mitrovic wouldn’t start and that was that, however I didn’t expect Gayle to be left out as recently he is our best bet for a goal. Still, at least Diame wasn’t starting . .

This is where I have to take the manager to task. It has now gone beyond the point of being funny, amusing and quite frankly annoying when the side that is picked to start the game, is so far from being good enough, that the side that ends the game is in so much better shape than the one that was playing for most of the match.

As soon as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Jonjo Shelvey were on the pitch, things looked they were going to happen, and West Brom were on the back foot. Leaving that amount of talent (Gayle, Shelvey and Mitrovic) on the bench isn’t doing the side any favours.

I get that the manager doesn’t like Mitrovic (I haven’t a clue why and nor do I care) but persisting with Joselu is tantamount to throwing away the amount of time he is on the pitch to the opposition. The team is literally playing with ten men, start Diame as well and the opposition have a field day.

In a nutshell, we got away with murder against West Brom. I couldn’t believe what I was watching, ANOTHER goal conceded from our right hand side and AGAIN in the last couple of minutes in the first half (Do we ever learn?).

However, the one thing that can be improved upon is the team selection. If we had started with the side that finished the game, I’m confident that we would have won the game last night.

At 0-2 down I was furious. Furious that a better side was available to the manager but not being used. That is criminal!

There have been many examples of players that have been a risk to the team/manager in the history of the Premier League, hotheads if you like. But the reason they play is that they are more likely to do something that any other player available to the manager. Did Alex Ferguson ever really trust Roy Keane not to blow a fuse?

It’s time Rafa went with either 4-4-2 or the usual 4-2-3-1 with Mitrovic involved, either with Dwight Gayle, or on his own, just to allow the guy to prove him ‘right’ and get himself sent off. Surely that’s the issue here? A lack of trust? Well I’ll tell you what, I’d take the risk on Mitrovic getting sent off against the risk of Joselu fluffing his lines (again) for the next few games. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of the latter.

In the meantime, the away point can’t be knocked. We’ve stopped the rot and held off a rival. The objective for the season is still what is was in August- Survival.

My argument is, it may be difficult, but it should be a little less difficult than it is being made out to be…

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  • Christopher Edwards

    Agreed 100%. To me it is a clear case of bias towards players he has bought. This is not limited to Benitez, all managers do it. Why would they admit to bringing in an inferior player to the ones already available? It has to be about the best team though and not about being so pompus to not admit mistakes. Mbemba is clearly better than Manquillo, Aarons is better than Murphy and Atsu, Mitro is better than Joselu. The difference is the ones in the team are Benitez buys.

    • Leazes Ender

      Couldn’t understand why any of them were bought…. their records are there for everyone to see on Transfermarkt…… none of them were Rafalution quality….. all it did was create a buzz for those people who don’t use the internet….. but do read Lee Ryder and the Chronicle.

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        1 look at Joselu`s playing CV confirms he`s dross

        • Leazes Ender

          Aye… you need at least £15m to get a striker who doesn’t trip over his own feet…. how long ago was it we paid that for Shearer? to get that sort of quality you need £80m and a smaller squad to give him the wages….. if you want a one star team.

        • HarryHype59

          He scored 5 goals in 27 games and was Stoke City’s third choice striker. Is any one surprised he is poor?

      • HarryHype59

        Eibor paid £1m for Lejeune in 2016 and then Rafa pays £8m for him a year later! That was always a strange one!

    • hetonmag

      Aaron’s needs to learn when to release the ball.

  • Paul Busby

    With you completely on this one.

  • TheFatController

    Managers often don’t know what they’re doing. I look at the league table and even those at the top don’t:-
    – guardiola last season didn’t know what he was doing, won nothing despite all that money spent
    – mourinho when last at Chelsea didn’t know what he was doing, and recently was criticised for dull football at Man Utd
    – Conte at Chelsea recently didn’t know what he was doing
    – wenger never knows what he is doing

    And they’re the lucky ones, because a third of PL managers have already been sacked for not knowing what they are doing.

    Admittedly, some managers don’t know what they are doing more than others – I notice Pardew and Allardyce will soon be back in the PL.

    I conclude that managing football clubs must be like refereeing, standards are low because no one else wants to do the job, but were they to do it, they’d be way better of course.

    Last season Rafa often didn’t make good decisions (allegedly), and we finished top. We should however demand more from him. It’s not nearly as good as when Pards was in charge after all…

  • HarryHype59

    The problem with Rafa is that he signs players who are often no better, or even worse, than those already at the club. Manky, Lejourne, Murphy and Hos are prime examples this season!

    • Leazes Ender

      The Rafalution hasn’t started yet….

      …..you better tell Mark Douglas as his book ‘Inside the Rafalution’ is sure to be an unscheduled and unintentionally hilarious stocking filler

      • HappyToons

        Yes all 3 pages of script and 57 pages of pictures of Rafa’s heed on a flag. Wouldn’t even make a decent weighted weapon to take on the ICF back in the day. But least our own hoolies could look at the pictures.

    • hetonmag

      He needed a squad buying one player instead of the 4 mentioned would leave us three players short, and your continued putting down of Murphy is quite frankly embarrassing.

      • HarryHype59

        Rafa has spent £50m on Sels, Hanley, Lazaar, Diame, Hos, Manky, Lejeune and Murphy. Can you honestly say they were better than players already here? Have they improved the first eleven?

        There were enough shirt fillers here already such as Saivet and Colbeck!

        Murphy has shown some signs of improvement of làte, but I would prefer to have seen his £12m fee going towards a decent striker. I think Aarons is a better prospect.

    • Coble’s Return

      It is hard not to take this thread to the usual level of “Rafa is beyond criticism and Ashley is clearly to blame”….but. If you look at the two summer windows over the past two years, recruitment in 2016 was pretty much spot on with the likes of Ritchie, Gayle, Clarke and even Grant Murphy brought in to do a specific job. 2017 was very different and I agree with most that there was no discernible improvement in the squad. I do believe that this is largely down to the attitude of the club and particularly Ashley at the time.

      2016 – despite relegation, Rafa was staying and place was buoyant and who at Championship level would not want to come and play at SJP. 2017 and Ashley stated clearly that he was not putting more in and then reneged on his “every penny” statement. Spirits visibly dropped and now we are competing in a very different player market. I believe Rafa when he says that he could not compete on transfer cost or wages and so we got who we got. Squad players at best.

      The more relevant issue here about who plays baffles me as much as everyone else. Joselu is an empty shirt and the vacuum at the front just piles pressure back on the rest of the team. Gayle or Mitro would at least give opposition defenders something to do, but we can not see the season out without a decent target man. The owner sets the tone for the club – get new owners in an Rafa will further prove his worth.

  • Mrkgw

    Have to agree with near enough all of this – what is Rafa doing. Its just not right. Darlow though, not so sure. I remember towards the end of last season that we were better when Elliott returned.

    • Leazes Ender

      It makes me think that Benitez is insincere, and the Chronicle tells lies.

      Elliot has no ambition for the club, doesn’t like United fans …. not a premiership keeper….. and has ginger hair….. Darlow at least wants to be here.

      • Mrkgw

        In January you can bet that Rafa will attempt to sign a replacement keeper. That is of course, if he remains in the hotseat.

        • Leazes Ender

          He’s hasn’t tried to hide the fact that those players who are dropped will be sold, I think that is why Alexander the not so great is being mothballed.

          • S.G.M.

            Why mothball a player you want rid off? get him in the shop window.

          • Leazes Ender

            You can’t sell an injured player.

  • magpies

    The only selection I didn’t agree with was Joselu instead of Mitro. The others played, and played badly, on Saturday – none of them can complain about losing their place in the team last night,

  • hetonmag

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing how the hell can you possibly say we would have won if we had started with the team that finished it’s like saying the horse I backed would have won if it hadn’t fallen at the first fence. And as far as Elliott is concerned he hasn’t had a very good time of it lately, and another favourite of posters on here Mbemba, he was to blame for the second goal he had the player trapped in the corner yet still got his cross in for the goal but no doubt people on here didn’t see that.

    • MadMag83

      Good points.

    • Rich Lawson

      Was Michael Owen the jockey on your horse then ?

      • hetonmag

        He got injured getting on it’s back.

  • S.G.M.

    Watford’s First goal Zeeglelaar crosses from the left, Hughes scores.
    Watford’s Second Zeeglelaar crosses from the left, Yedlin own goal.
    Watford’s Third Richarlison crosses from the left, Grey scores.
    W B A first goal, ball come in from the left, Kanu scores.
    W B A second, cross from the right, easy header at the back post.
    Yedlin found wanting an all occasions,
    I’m a big fan of the lad his pace, passion, and desire, but has Rafa not noticed this?

    • hetonmag

      What about stopping the ball from being crossed for the second did you not notice Mbemba’s half hearted attempt.

      • S.G.M.

        Yep noted, but not a recurring issue.

        • hetonmag

          Not trying to put Mbemba down mate but I like to have a fair assessment.

      • Jonathan

        Mbemba was really poor last night, he is no left back. Watching Clark spend most of his game covering for him was painful. Not his fault, he is a centre back. We have ended with 4 pretty good centre backs and no decent full backs. I would seriously look at 3 at the back) with yedlin as one of the wing backs.

        • hetonmag

          At long last a very sensible reply.

  • MadMag83

    I’d start Mitrovic against Chelsea. Purely because it gives him a chance to prove Rafa wrong, and were he to get himself sent off then it’s not the end of the world because we aren’t likely to get anything from the match anyway, so may as well take the risk.

    • Leazes Ender

      …. and a sending off would mothball him for December until the January sales!…. I think it’s already in the script.

  • Wor Lass

    Good article, Paul. The likes of Mitro and Mbemba aren`t necessarily the answer to our problems but at least they offer something more than Manquillo and Joselu. I would argue that it`s time to bring Woodman in at least for some time in games. He has to be the future and needs to build up PL experience.

  • Hughie

    Yes, time to risk Mitrovic. A better footballer than Joselu, but won’t obey instructions and can’t take stick. I suspect that Gayle may play against Chelsea with an unchanged team behind. Why not play Merino, Hayden and Shelvey as a midfield trio with Ritchie and Murphy wide– surely our best bet. Would also play Dummett at left back if he’s fit.

  • Mxpx

    I was very pleased to see Aarons back in the team too I’d like to see him playing regularly he could be the ideal option to stick it on mitrovics head

  • 1957

    Who will be our striker against Chelsea, will it be our ex Real Madrid (B) Spanish superstar, who has trained really well and deserves another chance or will Benitez bring in Gayle or Mitrovic so that when we get beat he can claim we missed the Hoss and help justify the sales of Dwight and Aleksandr to fund another poor quality ‘star’ from the manager’s homeland

  • TheFatController

    Why did john Anderson on radio newcastle say Joselu played very well last night – some great touches and good movement ?

    Was he watching a different game? I didn’t see the game so can only go off what people on here say, and what Ando said.

    • TheFatController

      Also, why would Alan shearer and Malcolm McDonald say Mitrovic isn’t good enough for us, if he was? After the Leeds home game shearer was asked directly on twitter what he thought of Mitro, he replied ‘not good enough’ – that’s against Leeds at home, not a fixture like Chelsea away.

      Blackburn got relegated last season, yet when we lost at home I didn’t get to the game, but a mate did. He said ‘Mitro was woeful’. Against Blackburn at home?

      Mitro got sent off in a nothing last day game against Spurs for a blatant violent challenge on the half way line – in the first half. He came on against West Ham and at 2-0 up was guilty of a violent challenge minutes in and retrospectively suspended. If he can’t control himself in nothing games or when we’re up at home, how will he cope with Chelsea winding him up in an important game with us behind in the game ?

      I am not stating exaggerations or lies to persecute him, I am stating facts and opinions of top strikers where they suggest he’s not the answer to our striking problem.

      Bear this in mind – his last two PL goals came in games he was either sent off in or should have been sent off before the goal was scored…fact. He’s on a red card per goal scored ratio on recent form. Had the ref seen his forearm smash properly, he’d not have got his West Ham goal…

      Chelsea’s defence probably want him to play as much as his supporters on here do ….

      • HarryHype59

        For £14 he was been a poor buy BUT he isn’t Joselu!

        • TheFatController

          Agreed, but ‘better than Joselu’ isn’t going to scare Chelsea, plus as I’ve said earlier, if John Anderson is right, Joselu played well last night, so why drop someone who played well?

          • Jonathan

            John Anderson was wrong. Joselu was hopeless or worse than. Mitrovic may look and act like an overweight brawler but he is better than Joselu and if he gets sent off at Chelsea so what. The other
            option is of course to give them a 1/2 each

          • TheFatController

            Ah ok, thanks for clarifying, gutted as we have no strikers that Chelsea will fear making an impact on their defenders.

    • hetonmag

      Biased opinion on here mate.