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.