Rafa Benitez  was left in the unenviable position of explaining away another defeat for Newcastle United.

Chelsea are obviously one of the better teams in terms of both the level of cash spent and the quality it brings.

However, Saturday’s loss still means that it is now 11 weeks with the only win a very fortunate victory over Crystal Palace, when sub Mikel Merino scored late on with pretty much the only serious threat of the game.

A repeat of the game at Old Trafford, Newcastle opening quite well and surprisingly taking the lead, only for things to fall apart and the Magpies to be trailing by the break.

Rafa Benitez was asked after the final whistle whether it was ‘confidence’ that was the problem with his players in this desperate run of form.

The United boss talked of the extra challenges posed by the ‘level of the Premier League’ but he can’t come out and say what the key problem is.

Newcastle’s players are simply not good enough.

Obviously some are better than others, with a handful of Premier League standard, but many are nowhere near what is needed.

No sensible manager would slaughter the quality of their players and Rafa certainly won’t, as it is the last thing they would need in this unequal battle  they are facing at the moment.

Some matches the players/team still look decent at times, for brief spells, such as the opening half hour against Man Utd and Bournemouth.

However, it isn’t confidence which is the issue when they then descend into the poor quality we generally have seen. Sometimes the passing moves look good but because many of the players aren’t really good enough, eventually errors creep in, passes misplaced, and if Newcastle are trying to be a bit more enterprising, as was the case against Bournemouth and Man Utd, then those errors invariably lead to the opposition breaking and creating chances.

The alternative is that the team sit back with everybody behind the ball and dare the opposition to break them down.

This is what happened yesterday as rather than take inspiration from the goal, Newcastle dropped deep and desperately tried to defend for the rest of the game. It may very well have been mistakes, as Rafa points out, that cost Newcastle but they are almost inevitable when you are permanently trying to defend and have no real out ball to relieve the pressure.

With everybody fit and and two or three key signings in January, Newcastle may just about have the quality needed to survive. Anything less and it is a certain relegation struggle.

Rafa Benitez:

“We made mistakes against good players. With the quality they have, they punish you.

“We were in the game and you never know what can happen at one each, 2-1.

“A top side played against a team that was giving everything.

“We knew him (Hazard) really well. He has good movements. You cannot control everyone. When he received the ball he can make the difference. We were doing quite well for a while but mistakes made the difference.”

‘Lack of confidence a problem for Newcastle?’

“No, it is a problem with the level of the Premier League.

“You could see the team working really hard.

“The team were still trying as they forced two corners towards the end when it was 3-1 but that is the Premier League.

“I am not really concerned about anything apart from improvement with the players that I have at this time, that is it.

“I didn’t realise anything (Chelsea fans having a go at him), I was just concentrating on the game.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

Chelsea 3 Newcastle 1


Newcastle: Gayle 12

Chelsea: Hazard 21, 74 Morata 33

Possession was Chelsea 66% Newcastle 34%

Total shots were  Chelsea 23 Newcastle 8

Shots on target were  Chelsea 9 Newcastle 2

Corners were  Chelsea 11 Newcastle 4

Referee: Kevin Friend

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Manquillo, Clark, Lejeune, Mbemba, Ritchie, Diame (Shelvey 75), Merino (Yedlin 85), Murphy, Perez (Hayden 62), Gayle

Unused Subs:

Elliot, Joselu, Mitrovic, Aarons

Crowd: 41,538 (Newcastle 3,000)

(Alan Shearer gives honest assessment on Chelsea defeat HERE)

(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Chelsea 3 Newcastle 1 – Read HERE)

(Danny Murphy can’t believe this Newcastle player can’t get in the team – Read HERE)

(Mikel Merino speaks after the 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge – Read HERE)

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

  • fistsofsteel2

    Rafa’s decision making in terms of team selection and subs is absolutely dreadful.

    I’ll say it now – RAFA OUT.

    • Geordiegiants

      What a bell end!

    • And what? Maybe get Moyes? You are clueless mate!

      • fistsofsteel2

        You are clueless mate!

    • GeordieReeva

      Well you can certainly use a keyboard. I guess you can also vote in elections…

    • Peter Stabler

      That is just daft, lad.

    • Jezza

      If Rafa goes his replacement is most likely to be Joe Kinnear. Is that what you want?

    • Jimmy_toons

      And who are you proposing we replace him with?

    • hetonmag

      Another idiot.

  • Are you seriously expecting RAFA to come out and SAY – OUR PLAYERS LACK CONFIDENCE, THEY LACK QUALITY. How will that help?

  • HarryHype59

    Whilst I agree Rafa is a good manager with better players, he is struggling with the limited quality of our squad!

    Due to the Fat Mans avarice, a Pullis or Fat Sham type manager could get more out of the Championship level and EPL journey men at at our club!

    Rafa’s is used to working with thorough breds in the EPL not donkeys!

    • GeordieReeva

      He certainly did a good job with donkeys when he first arrived.

      • HarryHype59

        Not really, he failed to avoid the drop despite having ten games to do so! He won the Championship after spending £50m! Wagner and Houghton spent next to nothing!

        He is a very good manager at clubs with quality players! He is struggling with the relegation battlers he has at NUFC!

        • Geordiegiants

          Ask the Mackem scousers if they would swap.

          • HarryHype59

            I don’t care about the Mackems!

            Despite the absurd deification of Rafa, his record at this club, when viewed objectively is mixed!

            He is a good manager at clubs with better players. However, he looks like a sports car running on a dirt track this season at NUFC!

          • Geordiegiants

            I was talking about the Everton fans.

          • Geordiegiants

            I remember people going on like this about sir Bobby and look at what happened there.

        • hetonmag

          Do you not realize the state this club was in when he took over our basket case of a club, you are so blinkered I’m in despair but alas your not the only on this forum that can’t see the wood from the tree’s

          • HarryHype59

            The club was 19th when Rafa took over with ten games to go! McClaren had won six out of twenty eight games! A win ratio of 21.4%.

            Nine games later with a win ratio of 22.22% (2 out of 9) the club was relegated! The final game was a meaningless win against a deflated Spurs! The result 5-1, sparked the collective delusion known as the Rafalution!

            “We could have finished top six with Rafa”

            Was a typical deluded comment made in the Mag

            I think Rafa is a good manager, but the absurd deification of him by the less sophisticated sections of NUFC fans isn’t justified!

            I also think he is used to dealing with better players!

  • Bigal09

    Admittedly we’ve not had great run of form by any stretch of the imagination. However, those people commenting that the reason we are in this predicament is because Rafa has some unresolved personal distaste for Mitrovic, and therefore unwilling to play him, either have a short memory span or don’t have a clue about football tactics. Mitrovic is slow paced, volatile, frustrating, all added to a poor goal to game ratio. Lot’s of people spoke about Rafa’s overly cautious and negative team formation by his unwillingness to play two upfront. When he eventually did play two strikers, it was clearly apparent that it left us hugely exposed at the back. I’m not saying Rafa is beyond culpability, no manager should be, however he’s working under extreme restrictions when it comes to quality of and choice of players. The one and only person who is to blame for our current predicament is Mike Ashley. Zero investment in January, laughably limited funding prior to this campaign, and under investment throughout his tenure. Unless he sells up and disappears or has a change of heart and ploughs some cash into the transfer kitty, we’re going to struggle forever more.

    • steve

      All that aside he’s better than the other options we have up front.

    • Jezza

      Spot on. Mitrovic struggled for the whole of last season and most Newcastle fans wanted shot of him in the summer. Now suddenly those same fans seem to be under the delusion that he is a guaranteed 30 goal a season Premiership striker. It beggars belief.

      • Mike Adam

        Wrong again, nobody is saying that! What we are saying is that Mitro is scoring goals for his country this year and has scored as many as our other two strikers in almost no playing time. Our illustrious manager has not given this 23 year old a chance “THIS SEASON”, as a lone striker or with Gayle! Ultimately I agree investment is needed, but until that happens we need to try all possible players to secure points and avoid relegation! Knowone knows what he could do this year without giving him a run out. Last year doesn’t matter anymore! By your logic Hazard would have been finished two seasons ago when he had a horrid season. What about Ashley Young, he was basically a squad player for several years until Mourinho gave him another chance and it is paying off isn’t it! We are not delusional we just want our manager to use all of the players at his disposal.

        • Jezza

          I see you have changed your catchphrase from “excuses” to “wrong again”. Instead of stalking me every time I put a comment on this forum why can’t you just answer the one question you keep ducking:

          Who do you want to replace Rafa?

          • Mike Adam

            You are a joke, I have never called for Rafa to go! Find it in any of my posts and I will own it, but I have never said it! So I am ducking nothing!!!!!! I want our manager to use all of the possible weapons at his disposal. You only focus on the Fat man and investment, that cannot be changed once the window closes so then our goal needs to be points and
            avoiding relegation! I am aloud to read the same articles you are, so I am not stalking either, just commenting on your catch WORD, “investment”!!!

          • Geordiegiants

            There’s not a manger in the land that can make a silk purse out of this sows ear.

          • Jezza

            Still ducking the question. You want Rafa to be sacked but you can’t come up with any possible replacement. You are just full of hot air. I am happy to discuss and debate football matters with anybody but people like you just want to argue the toss and stalk anybody who doesn’t agree with them. Well count me out. I am blocking you. Do not bother replying to any more of my posts because I won’t be able to read your comments.

          • Mike Adam

            Good!!! I have ducked nothing! Justify Rafa substitutions yesterday and in other matches!!!! Discuss that.

          • Geordiegiants

            Justify them, how can Jezza or any other fan justify his tactics or subs. We do not see these players day in day out, or know them and their attitudes at all. It’s all good playing football on paper, or based on past reputations, but that’s not how football is played.

          • Mike Adam

            So how many managers substitute a holding mid for an offensive player at 2 – 1 down in the 71st minute??? Make no attempt to go after a point at all ! Your group of supporters can keep defending Rafa, but there is no defense for it. The game commentators, studio hosts, media, and many fans who do not worship Rafa question ridiculous choices such as that, there is absolutely no justification!

          • hetonmag

            Been there done it and worn the the T-shirt comes to mind your relentless posts regarding Rafa is quite frankly pathetic 52,000 chanted his name to stay and be our manager, he got us promoted by hook or by crook we got into premier and now suddenly we have loads of keyboard manager’s on here know better than a man who has won more trophies than any manager in NUFC history.

          • Mike Adam

            So you just pathetically and blindly agree with whatever the great Rafa decides? That is quite frankly pathetic . . . and the NUFC traveling supporters at West Brom were chanting Mitro’s name. I would rather have an opinion than blindly follow any day of the week!!!

          • hetonmag

            Yes and the away supporters were chanting Rafa’s name even though we were 3-1 down at Chelsea you know the one’s I mean them what back the team through thick and thin.

          • Mike Adam

            So you honestly just accept any decision Rafa makes?

          • hetonmag

            Correct if we don’t trust him who can we trust because without him this club will sink like a stone believe me IMHO.

          • Mike Adam

            I respect your belief, but I still question decisions if I think they are wrong.

          • Damon Horner

            Two reasons you’d generally being on a defensive midfielder as a positive change. 1) change either the shape or setup to allow a deeper player to play more advanced. 2) goals are scored if you’re in control of the ball, if we aren’t winning the ball or even winning it quick enough a defensive midfielder quickens the defence/attack transition.

          • Mike Adam

            You forget, we see how they play on matchday, and quite frankly that is all that counts in the long run! Performance on matchday and earning points, there is nothing else!!!!!!!!!

          • Geordiegiants

            If that’s all that matters then we can get rid of Rafa, and let the fans pick who they want on a Saturday. Sounds an excellent idea, why has nobody thought of it before?

          • Mike Adam

            Yeah, I know mate, Rafa knows what he is doing. In the end points are all that matter, because without points, teams get relegated, players are sold to other teams, and coaches get sacked, you cannot deny that, but you will. You cannot defend a manager who does not try to go after a point.

          • Geordiegiants

            Of course he was going after the point, he just has a different way of doing things than the average fan, that is why he has one of the top 22 managers jobs in world football. He also has one of the best collections of football medals with unfancied clubs in world football.

          • Lhc

            Favourites is the answer.

      • Lhc

        No mate he didn’t get a chance last season, not one sain nufc fan thinks he will bag 30 goals but he will get more than Joselu that’s for sure, he will bag 10-15 a season with good service. The fans will always be divided on Mitro and in the end he will be sold on, shame imo, he’s young and wouldn’t come good.

      • Lhc

        And *would come good

  • Leicester Mag

    Maybe Rafa could do better in shuffling the deck but when the deck is the Titanic and it’s being self scuppered by Ashley then it makes next to no difference.

  • Jezza

    The real reason for one win in eleven is a chronic under investment in the summer transfer window and that’s all there is to it.

  • Jimmy_toons

    If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.
    The problem with United remains the owner. Has been for 10 years and will continue to be so until every single tie between him and his companies, and our club is cut.
    When the main aim and ambition of the club is to make money for the owner and his company, it will result in the football club struggling and ultimately relegation. That has happened twice so far, and will happen again so long as this odious man stays in charge and the owner, it’s just a matter of when and not if.

  • mentalman

    I would have to disagree with rafa there are clearly players on the pitch who are struggling with confidence and then there are others who are being picked whever they are playing well or not.


    Confidence comes from winning games, winning games comes from scoring goals, Rafa is changing formations to see if that has any effect, it hasn’t. I read rumours that Giroud needs games, someone like that for 6 months could keep us up, otherwise i think ourselves West Ham and Swansea are the worst 3 teams at the moment.