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Opinion

Rafa Benitez fatal error now exposed

2 years ago
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Rafa Benitez was gutted after watching his team lose at home to Watford.

However, the United boss insisted that at the heart of the defeat was simply making bad mistakes at certain times in the match.

The stand out one being the way Newcastle were left badly exposed second before half-time when conceding the killer second goal, just as had been the case at Old Trafford seven days earlier.

Going two down to Watford in added first half time turned a bad situation into an irretrievable one.

The reaction of Newcastle fans went from the hundreds who walked out with half an hour to go when the third goal went in, right through to those of us who stuck it out grimly to the very end. Not without any remote hope of turning the game around but quite simply because this is what you do – win, lose, or draw.

The pubs after the final whistle were brimming with never-ending debate about where things have gone wrong.

I didn’t hear anybody suggesting Rafa Benitez was no longer the right man for the job but there were plenty terrace pundits pointing out where the manager might have made better choices.

I notice this Sunday morning that a number of journalists are doing the same, particularly in the local north east media.

My belief though is that Rafa Benitez has made only one real fatal error and it wasn’t yesterday.

This is what the United boss said after beating Stoke 2-1 at St James Park.

Rafa Benitez – 16 September 2017:

“The fans, when you win so many games in a row, they are excited and thinking about Europe…for me it is one game at a time.

“The team believe in themselves but there are still a lot of things we can improve.

“If we play against a top side and make the kind of mistakes we did against Stoke, we will pay for it.”

The bottom line is that by winning those three games (West Ham, Swansea, Stoke) in a row, all fans – to varying degrees – then had unrealistic expectations.

Rafa didn’t really believe fans were ‘thinking about Europe’ back in September but he was using the moment to remind everybody that our team weren’t suddenly world beaters, that simply they had followed up beating a very poor West Ham side 3-0, with narrow one goal margins over both Swansea and Stoke that could basically have gone either way.

As he says: ‘If we play against a top side and make the kind of mistakes we did against Stoke, we will pay for it’.

That happened against Manchester United when Newcastle lost by more than one goal for the first time (when having 10 men on the pitch) and it was the same yesterday. Watford aren’t one of the ‘top’ sides but what they are is a very very good fast attacking team who are probably the worst kind of opponents Newcastle could have faced at the moment.

A team that is willing to attack and attack with numbers and which has also got the pace to get up and down the pitch, is/was a nightmare for a Newcastle team that has very little pace in the team and is also missing a number of key players.

Player for player Newcastle have one of the weakest squads in the Premier League, if we don’t have the very weakest squad then I would say NUFC certainly rank as one of the weakest three or four.

Winning those three matches made all of us, to at least some extent, think our players were better than what they actually are.

Newcastle do probably have a handful of players who give a base to start building a decent team around but when the likes of Lascelles and Merino are missing and the likes of Ritchie is having a nightmare game, it is far too much for players such as Shelvey and Gayle (and maybe Clark) to carry some very poor players around them.

Rafa Benitez performed a minor miracle getting that number of points on the board early and reality is that in almost any game Newcastle will be facing a team that player for player is better than them. Only the manager and hopefully a helping hand in the January transfer window stands between Newcastle and an all but certain relegation struggle.

Newcastle United have a manager who is good enough but a squad that is in desperate need of more quality and a number of first choice players to return to full fitness.
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