Mark Lawrenson was left very surprised by Rafa Benitez on Saturday.
The BBC Sport pundit taken aback as the Newcastle boss ‘threw caution to the wind’ as his team attacked West Ham from the first minute, rather than the usual more cautious tactics and formation employed by the Spaniard.
The change of heart looking to have spectacularly backfired as a combination of a shocking pass by Henri Saivet and lack of covering numbers, meaning Arnautovic was left one on one with Ciaran Clark and finished the chance well after only six minutes.
However, Newcastle showed great character and hit straight back through Saivet’s excellent free-kick and went on to deservedly win the match.
On Saturday night, both Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer were keen to highlight how Newcastle caused havoc for the Hammers by attacking with numbers, often getting four or five players into the box as they cut open the home side.
As for the change of tactics, Mark Lawrenson believes that it was quite possibly down to desperation from Rafa Benitez, the injuries meaning he had to play both Diame and Saivet, so quite possibly believing that attack had to be the best form of defence, with the team he put out.
Whatever the reasoning, Lawrenson says that the change definitely worked but he can’t see it staying in place.
Rafa Benitez will have Jonjo Shelvey back from suspension and has revealed that both Merino and Hayden ‘have a chance’ of being available, after only ‘small problems’ kept them out of the West Ham match.
Whatever the players available, Mark Lawrenson sees Rafa Benitez reverting to his ‘usual approach’ for the visit of what looks an unstoppable Man City, currently on an amazing run of 17 Premier League wins in a row.
Rafa has regularly shown an ability to spring surprises on better quality opposition and indeed when he almost saved Newcastle from relegation when unbeaten in the final six games of 2015/16, NUFC got a very good 1-1 draw against Man City, Vurnon Anita scoring.
However, this Pep Guardiola side does look something special and whatever Rafa comes up with, Lawrenson only sees one outcome.
Mark Lawrenson talking to BBC Sport:
“Newcastle put in a performance against West Ham that was very unlike their manager Rafa Benitez, and threw caution to the wind.
“I am not sure if he only did that because of the players he had available, but it worked.
“The Magpies got a really good result to end their run of nine games without a victory and, with leaders Manchester City up next, they really needed that win.
“I think Benitez will revert to his usual approach for this game, though.
“He is very good at negating the opposition in matches like this but, even so, I do not see Newcastle stopping City’s winning run.
“Prediction is Newcastle 0 Manchester City 2.”
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