There is no getting away from the fact that the Newcastle team on Saturday fell a long way short of what is needed in the Premier League.

After a fairly even opening, from the 19th minute when Will Hughes scored, it never looked like United would get back in the game.

Following the final whistle Rafa Benitez blamed mistakes costing Newcastle, rather than an overall lack of quality.

However, I do think it needs saying, that for all the disappointment, this was nowhere near the manager’s ideal Newcastle team.

This is not to say that Newcastle would have a great team whoever was available from this current squad BUT there is no arguing with just how weak a choice the manager had against Watford.

I make it that in his ideal Newcastle team, Rafa would have changed half the outfield players on Saturday.

This is how I think Rafa Benitez would line up at this moment in time, with everybody available:

newcastle team

Having Mohamed Diame in midfield instead of Mikel Merino really sums it up.

Even having the extra pace and mobility of Isaac Hayden in midfield in this different formation, would have enable Newcastle to do far better in dealing with what was a very quick and talented Watford side going forward, instead Rafa had to rely on the plodding Joselu up front.

Murphy did ok on Saturday but little doubt Christian Atsu would have started ahead of him.

Whilst at left-back the steady but unspectacular Paul Dummett may not be a long-term answer but far far better than Manquillo.

Maybe most importantly, we saw Lejeune feeling the strain a bit in these last two difficult matches, just how much more would Jamaal Lascelles have given as both a player and captain?

Newcastle’s first team are no world beaters but having to rely on five squad players to step up was always going to be a massive ask against a Watford team committed to attack, with pace on top of that.

I don’t see how anybody can judge Rafa on the team he was forced to rely on yesterday against one of the league’s best attacks. Only Manchester City (16) have scored more goals away from home than the 15 Watford have now scored.

To feature like Sam Hepworth submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here



  • lukegte

    Agree with most if what you say and with the sentiment behind the article. For me;

    Move Ritchie in to the middle and put Murphy on the wing. Mitro up front. Shelvey and Merino in the middle. Mbema right back, Clark left back. Lejeune and Lascelles in the centre. That’s Newcastle’s best lineup.

    But it still exposes the weaknesses at goalkeeper, both full backs and centre forward. Even then, every player bar Merino and Lascelles would need a superior replacement if we are to ever challenge for Europe.

  • Panzerfaust

    Newcastle start well, but can’t put the ball in the net. They then fizzle out. Nothing new there. Let’s hope the fat one takes the money, and scuttles back to his sweat shop. Some new players in, and we’ll be okay.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Dummy needs to play on Tuesday as well as Mikel & Hayden
    no new on the Capt or Atsu

  • Paul Patterson

    Trouble is, if the teams job is to just contain the opposition, we STILL won’t score many goals with that line up. We need to attack teams more often, starting at The Hawthorns . .

  • Mike Adam

    Gayle was invisable against a suspect defence yesterday. He cannot play in the PL as a single striker. No matter what anyone says, Mitro is our best chance at goals from a striker at this time, period. Merino should play as the number 10 as he does for Spain U21’s and Shelvey as the holding mid, because long passing and through balls are his forte. Not sure that Yedlin is PL caliber defender. Mbemba can provide similar offensive runs and play much better defense. Want to see Aarons get some time as well with his pace on the outside. I would also like to see Darlow back in goal as he is much more mobile and controls the box better than Elliot. All just my opinion! But to continue to play the likes of Horselu, Manquillo, SloMo is absurd, again in my humble opinion.

    • Clarko

      Merino does not play at number 10 for Spain U21’s, Merino is a defensive midfielder, he has played 10 times for the Spanish U21s, 6 appearances at DM, 3 appearances at CM and 1 appearance at CB. Not only that but the U21s don’t play with a “number 10”, they have played a 4-3-3 system in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualification games, with Merino, Hernandez and Ceballos in the midfield.

      What is the statement, “Mbemba can provide similar offensive runs”, based on?

      You state that you “Want to see Aarons get some time as well with his pace on the outside”, do Murphy and Atsu not have pace? Your reasoning is silly.

      “Not sure that Yedlin is PL caliber defender”. No reasoning provided.

      You can’t use “All just my opinion” and “in my humble opinion” to justify your argument, it doesn’t work.

      • Mike Adam

        I can use any saying that I want no matter what you or anyone else says!!! That is the great thing about opinions, you can’t stop them from happening, you can only agree or disagree with them. Thank you for correcting me on Merino, as I am not perfect.

        • Clarko

          You didn’t say “Aarons is a better player” in your original comment did you? Not only that, but you saying he is a better player doesn’t make him a “better player”, there is no reasoning, no evidence, why is he a better player?

          I appreciate you acknowledging that you were wrong regarding Merino, not many people do. However that is an example of your opinion being uninformed, and effectively wrong, Merino shouldn’t play as a “number 10”.

          “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

          • Mike Adam

            There it is name calling, does it make you feel better? Merino should be the number 10 and I am entitled to say it as often as I want and there is nothing you can do about it. Merino should be the number 10, there it is again. Why is the West Brom game “now a must win”? It is not, there are 25 more games to play and plenty of points to play for until any must win games really come up. And now that Rafa knows that the 4-3-3 is the formation to play thanks to you we won’t have any problems getting points, so why would it be a must win? You give no reason, no evidence, but you are entitled to have that “uninformed” (your word, not mine) opinion and I respect it, just as I respect your opinion on a 4-3-3 formation. And Clarko, that is an example of being human, not uninformed. I make mistakes, like all humans, even you. Then, I am able to admit it when I make a mistake, like only some humans can.

          • Clarko

            Where did I name call? I didn’t.

            You can say that “Merino should be the number 10” all you want, but you just look silly doing so. Again, no reasoning and evidence to support your “opinion”.

            I did give many reasons as to why West Brom is a must win game. You have just chosen to ignore them, again.

            You were uninformed, you stated that Merino plays as a number 10 for the U21’s, he doesn’t.

          • Mike Adam

            Yes, I did incorrectly state that, we established that already! What exactly did I chose to ignore about the West Brom game? What reasons did you give? They are not important at this point anyway because it is not a must win game, nothing will happen to NUFC after the game accept that they will earn 0, 1, or 3 points and move up or down, or stay at the same position on the PL table. Could you please tell the rest of us human beings what it feels like to be perfect? Again, Merino would be a good number 10 because I think so, no other explanation needed! Can I ask what pleasure you get from trying to prove others more uninformed than yourself? Do you already know “EVERYTHING” or do you do research before you speak and/or write anything? Because you wouldn’t want to speak or write anything that is uninformed and ignorant, like the rest of us do.

          • Clarko

            I am not interested in having another “discussion” with you, it’s pointless, you are not capable.

            You have wrongly accused me of “name calling” you, you have wrongly accused me of not providing reasoning as to why West Brom is a must win game (read your replies) and you have wrongly stated that Merino plays as a number 10 for the U21’s.

            “Merino would be a good number 10 because I think so, no other explanation needed”, you have put no thought into it, which is why you cannot provide reasoning, it’s a very childish mentality, “it’s true because I say it is”, no, that’s not how it works.

          • Mike Adam

            Just what I thought, you have insulted me again by saying I am not capable. You are right about one thing, it is pointless! And if someone doesn’t meet your definition of informed opinion then it doesn’t count or is not valid. Or, if someone actually makes a mistake, thay are not able to communicate on your level. This is not a competition! I can provide reasons why I believe Merino would be a good number 10, I just don’t always feel the incessant need to justify everything that I say.
            I honestly missed your response that included your reasons why the West Brom game is a must win, so declare me ignorant again! So I apologize for questioning that statement a second time, which you did not provide reasons for initially. You must be slipping, maybe you are not a machine. I have reached out as a fellow human being to actually have a football conversation, but have been belittled because I do not follow your rules. I can tell you that most of us do not follow your rules, we are mates that can have conversations over a beer without feeling the need to justify everthing we say. Also, we respect each other’s opinions with or without reasoning!!!

          • Clarko

            You’re not capable of having a discussion, like you have stated, “Merino would be a good number 10 because I think so, no other explanation needed”, there is nothing to discuss, whatever you think has to automatically be acceptable by everyone else with no explanation. These are not insults, these are facts, you’re incapable.

            The “West Brom is now a must win game”, comment was not my argument in my initial comment, therefore no reasoning was needed, my argument was based on tactics and team selection. However once prompted for reasoning I gave it, the same cannot be said for you.

            The rest of your comment is just irrelevant drivel about “beer”, “mates” and “rules”.

          • Mike Adam

            I would imagine, not know of course, because only you know, that you do not have many friends. It was nice not hearing or seeing your informed opinions for quite a time, so let’s keep it that way go talk to your friends who follow your rules, if you have any. I will continue to express my opinions on here and there is nothing you can do about it. I just hope Rafa was informed about your informed opinion that NUFC should play a 4-3-3 and move Ritchie to the left, that could save the season!!! Because it is an informed opinion of course.

          • Clarko

            Lets hope Benitez plays Merino at number 10 because he plays there for Spain, oh wait… Lets hope Benitez plays Merino at number 10 because you said so.

            Stay in your own IQ bracket next time 👍🏿

          • Mike Adam

            Sorry, I don’t take orders from you and isn’t that a great thing! Merino and Mitro would make a great attacking pair, because I say so and it is my opinion, informed or otherwise. And by the way, does it matter why, if it works? No, it doesn’t, and right now even the great Rafa cannot figure out what works. So there are my words of irrelevant drivel for the day.
            Sincerely,
            Uniformed human

          • Clarko

            “Uniformed human”

          • Mike Adam

            Instead of continuosly going at each other can we have a football discussion since we are both NUFC fans? I know your informed opinion on the formation you think we should play and the players that should be in the lineup, but who would you like us to go after in the January window? Also, what current players would you like to see out the door?

      • Mike Adam

        It is not silly when I believe that Aarons is a better player! And I base that on the reasoning that it is my opinion, that is all I need and it does work because it is mine.

      • Mike Adam

        Now I know where I read that Merino played in the number 10 position for Spain U21’s, from Sean McCormick in the Chronicle. Shame on me for not confirming it! He has stated it again in “West Brom vs Newcastle Team Selector: Do You Agree with our Writers’ Selections”. You and I really have many similar opinions, only yours are informed and mine are not. Also, you are much more intelligent than I am, based on IQ scores of course.

        • Clarko

          “Shame on me for not confirming it”. Yes, shame on you, you should have confirmed it. That or you should just know that Merino doesn’t play there in the first place.

          “You and I really have many similar opinions, only yours are informed and mine are not”. Correct my opinions are informed and yours are not, as proven.

          “Also, you are much more intelligent than I am”. Yes I am.

          Are you done with spamming my timeline?

  • Clarko

    It’s time to ditch the current system, it’s time to implement a system that caters to the international goal scoring striker we have sitting on the bench.

    4-3-3
    Elliot
    Yedlin – Lejeune – Clark – Dummett
    Shelvey – Hayden – Merino
    Murphy – Mitrovic – Ritchie

    We need the wingers and the full backs to run to the byline and cross the ball for Mitrovic.

    Ritchie has an excellent delivery and needs to played on the left to prevent the telegraphed cut back and to allow him to cross with his dominant foot.

    There was a distinct gap between our defence and midfield on Saturday, likely because both Shelvey and Diame started and neither seem to have the desire or work rate to get back and tackle/pressure the opposition like Hayden and Merino would. having three central midfielders ensures that there will always be someone present in that gap.

    Ritchie over the last few games has abandoned Yedlin, we are leaking goals through our right side, Ritchie needs to do better, but by switching him to the left, along with the return of Dummett as well as having three central midfielders, the defensive responsibilities of the wingers/Ritchie is reduced.

    Benitez has to be criticised here, for persisting with Joselu out of what appears to be stubbornness, for persisting with the same system, he needs to change the team, he needs to play Mitrovic. West Brom is now a must win game.

    • Mike Adam

      Clarko, is this sarcasm, or do you really believe what you said?

      • Clarko

        You’ll find out how to break down, question and correct someone else’s comment when you look at read the rest of your replies.

    • Mike Adam

      West Brom is not a must win, that is a silly statement as there are 25 more games remaining. What is your reasoning for even saying that it doesn’t calculate.

      • Clarko

        Why do I think West Brom is a must win game? Because Newcastle play Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City in December. Because West Brom are below Newcastle. Because having momentum and a positive mentality are very important in football. Because Newcastle could go into that tough December in 17th position if we don’t.

        Those are my reasons, pick your favourite.

  • Leazes Ender

    About Eleven short in all I’d say.