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