It’s no secret that Rafa Benitez’ preferred style is to have his Newcastle team laid out to counter attack.

Keep it tight and disciplined at the back, then quickly get at the opposition when winning back possession.

The season has seen many ups and downs already but 14 points in 12 games definitely equals success so far.

The last three matches could all have had different outcomes, yes – even Man Utd, but pivotal moments went against Newcastle, both up front and at the back.

However, I also think there were other underlying factors at play and today at St James Park, everything could just have come together perfectly.

It is all very well playing certain systems but bottom line is that it’s players who win and lose matches.

Newcastle have looked ever blunter up front as the season has progressed but Bournemouth and then Manchester United have seen Dwight Gayle step closer and close, so today I think he will be back to 100% effectiveness.

A disallowed goal that should have stood against the Cherries and one at Old Trafford that did (count), Gayle’s ability in front of goal is of course vital.

However, just as important is the pace he offers that no other striker (Joselu, Mitro, Perez) can, this is essential to how Rafa Benitez wants to play. With Dwight Gayle willing to run in behind as well as making intelligent moves in the box.

Mikel Merino is another essential, all points this season have come in the games where he has been involved.

Rafa said on Friday that Merino is both fit to be in the squad and also to start if selected. The control he can help give Newcastle in the middle of the pitch is also essential.

Then we have the opposition.

Watford under Marco Silva will try to attack in every match, no surprise then that Man City picked them off 6-0 at Vicarage Road.

On the road they have had much praise and rightly so. Scoring two every match (six games in total) and winning three and drawing one is really good away form.

However, bottom line is that their attacking style is great for Rafa Benitez, perfect for him to set Newcastle up to counter attack and expose what is a really poor defence for the Hornets.

Only four clubs have conceded more than Watford’s 21 and all four of those clubs are in the bottom six.

The last three away matches have seen Watford draw 2-2 at West Brom (who have lost their last four matches and haven’t won a game since August), and then lose 4-2 at Chelsea and 3-2 at Everton.

Both games saw a dramatic collapse as Watford led 2-1 at Chelsea with 19 minutes to go and 2-0 at Goodison Park with 23 minutes remaining.

Even if scores are level with 20/25 minutes to go, no need to panic as the stats tell you both that Watford’s defence is vulnerable, and that they can have a tendency to blow themselves out.

A perfect day to get back to winning ways and back into the top half of the Premier League.

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