When the Rafa Benitez team to face Bournemouth was revealed at 2pm on Saturday, fair to say not many people would have predicted it.

Isaac Hayden was an obvious choice to come back in for Mohamed Diame, the former Arsenal player 100% again, whilst Diame was shocking at Burnley.

However, up front it was all bets lost.

Rafa Benitez surprising us all when playing two up front for the first time…in a very long time.

Ayoze Perez finally running out of lives after somehow clinging on for almost three months, Dwight Gayle chosen alongside Joselu.

Of those that were fit, I’m guessing this would have been the team/formation the vast majority of fans would have chosen, apart from Mitrovic for Joselu in many cases.

After the game there have been many people distorting what actually happened in the game, confusing/misleading those relying on what they read or see on Match of The Day etc.

The first half hour was arguably Newcastle’s best 30 minutes of the season, certainly in an attacking sense.

Pressing them high up the pitch, the Bournemouth defenders were repeatedly caught in possession in dangerous positions and/or forced into desperate clearances – handing possession instantly to Newcastle.

Not being funny but football is a pretty simple game when it comes to trying to win it – the first part is that you have to find a way to create chances, then secondly it is whether you can then finish them.

Newcastle United were excellent in terms of creating in that first half but just couldn’t find the net.

We have all seen games before, when no matter what you do you can’t score, that was 3pm-3.45pm on Saturday.

I’m not claiming it was all-out attack and Bournemouth never getting out of their own half – but it was a case of creating as many chances as the Burnley, Palace, Liverpool, and Brighton, matches combined.

I left out Southampton because the second-half there was similar to the opening 45 on Saturday, having a go at a poor team to try and win the game.

Newcastle did fall away in the second-half on Saturday but that wasn’t because of the change to two up front and leaving out Perez, it was simply a case of too many players playing poorly and nobody getting hold of the game and their teammates to calm it down and start playing football again. Maybe if Jamaal Lascelles hadn’t been forced off after 55 minutes that would have happened.

Yes Newcastle did lose the game but it has been a bit pathetic to see many fans/press using that result to then draw all kinds of conclusions from it. We deserved to be leading not just because Dwight Gayle wasn’t offside when scoring – but also the sheer weight of first-half chances deserved a goal.

You would think that everything had been going perfectly beforehand to hear what some have said. The reality though is that against Palace and Burnley, Newcastle hardly created any chances at all over the course of 3+ hours of football – that couldn’t continue.

We  got super lucky when scoring that late late goal against Palace, they arrived rock bottom and Newcastle hadn’t had a serious effort before scoring.

With the next home game being against (then) second bottom Bournemouth, we surely had to have a go at them.

Rafa Benitez obviously believed so.

I think when you look at the upcoming fixtures, you can then understand why the United boss had to go all out for three points.

Saturday 18 Nov – Man Utd (A) 5.30pm

Saturday 25 Nov – Watford (H) 3pm

Tuesday 28 Nov – West Brom (A) 8pm

Saturday 2 Dec – Chelsea (A) 12.30pm

Saturday 9 Dec – Leicester (H) 5.30pm

Wednesday 13 Dec – Everton (H) 7.45pm

Saturday 16 Dec – Arsenal (A) 3pm

Saturday 23 Dec – West Ham (A) 3pm

Wednesday 27 Dec – Man City (H) 7.45pm

Saturday 30 Dec – Brighton (H) 3pm

It is possible for Newcastle to get points from any match but looking at the schedule, I have to say that certainly the next four are tough.

Manchester United and Chelsea away speak for themselves, then West Brom away won’t be for the faint hearted.

I know Watford lost on Sunday but I watched the highlights and they have got bags of pace in the team, especially Richarlison and Gray up front (bought for combined £30m in the summer…), that is going to be one tough match. They have scored 12 goals in their six away games so far – Newcastle have scored only in all 11 matches combined.

Looking at the other games up to and including Man City at home on 27 December, I just see a very tough schedule where every point gained won’t be easy. Even Everton and West Ham will be difficult propositions I’m guessing with new managers.

Starting with Brighton on 30 December, it is then followed by Stoke (A), Swansea (H), Man City (A), Burnley (H) and Palace (A). That run including reverse fixtures against three of the four teams Newcastle have beaten so far, plus all of them look possible point(s) givers, apart from Man City at the Etihad.

It is not defeatist looking at the tough schedule before the turn of the year, just realistic that we are now heading into matches against generally better teams. You can still take points but it is that much more difficult.

Rafa Benitez can steer us to safety but it may be a case of holding on for our lives at times and trying to score goals and potentially playing two up front at times, has to be part of the mix.

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  • Headless

    Good article. 2 points:
    Possibly Rafa went 442 because he’s finally realised that we don’t have a proper number 10 in the squad and he couldn’t try the experiment with Merino there that I would love to see!
    If the linesman had followed the FA instructions that “if you’re not sure, give the attacker the benefit of the doubt” I think we would have gone on to beat Bournemouth.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Yes, we were all over them like fleas on a Tramps vest in the 1st half but if you can`t finish then it`s curtains

    • Geordiegiants

      Would of been no good having Mitro on then 😁.

  • Paul Patterson

    It was crying out for Joselu to be replaced by Mitrovic in the last twenty minutes.
    The games against Watford, West Brom, Everton and Brighton now become crucial in that list of fixtures.

  • Down Under Mag

    Seemed to me like we either ran out of legs in the second half, or just ran out of ideas. What I really hope wasn’t the case was that we simply thought it was easy and we would definitely win and stopped trying because it just looked like everyone switced off and were miles off the pace in the 2nd half. I don’t think Mitro would have made any difference to be honest as we weren’t creating any chances for him anyway. Perhaps our lack of quality and getting by on sheer effort alone has finally caught up with us – not helped by Merino and Lascelles both missing. Starting to pick up injuries now which is showing our problem with squad depth. not good signs

  • Leazes Ender

    Did you know: No. 2

    According to a little bit of investigation….. Mike Ashley owns a Pub….. The Lion hotel in Worksop.

    The carpets are not vomit colored…. but they probably do ‘lock-ins’

    • Rich Lawson

      I’m guessing it is a noble building of once great glory,which now badly needs money spending on it and the large and decorous fireplace is lately in poor repair ?

      • Dillon Tovak

        Apparently their big screen for watching the match almost fell off once.
        The barmaid Leanne Charnley isn’t very good at her job but manages to keep it because she’s willing to work for minimum wage.

        • Rich Lawson

          Hmm ! I notice Worksop isn’t that far from Stoke,that must explain their recently arrived Spanish cellar man who apparently makes a mess of the easy and frequent deliveries he receives ?

    • Geordiegiants

      I’m not so sure that’s true, it’s a best western hotel chain.

  • ghostrider

    If we set out to play like we did in the first half against Bournemouth and train on the training pitch with this in mind, with and obvious balanced mindset, then this team/squad will win enough games to be safe and score goals in the process.

    Taking chances becomes easier when chances become regular and once chances are taken, confidence builds.
    Confidence will never build in Rafa keeps being so cautious for 90% of games and we will inevitably suffer for it in terms of points missed and also nauseating football endured.

  • Steve Pearce

    I think the 4-4-2 line up was a work in progress to see if what was practiced on the training ground would work in a match. It seemed to be more effective, but lacked a competent strike partner for Gayle. As there is only one other player in our team that fits this description I think that Mitro will appear alongside Gayle against Manure. If not the usual Clod and Perez combination is long passed its sell by date…

  • Still the Leazes End

    Six points from these games perhaps?