It is rarely easy to predict any Rafa Benitez line-up.

However, Saturday afternoon has seen maybe one of his stranger and more unlikely looking ones.

After seven defeats and a draw in the last eight matches, we all wondered what Rafa would go with…

Just in case you hadn’t seen it already, this is who Rafa Benitez starts with:

Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Manquillo, Hayden, Merino, Murphy, Atsu, Perez, Joselu

and the Subs:

Darlow, Clark, Dummett, Aarons, Diame, Ritchie, Gayle

Rafa Benitez making five changes – Elliot, Murphy, Hayden, Perez, Joselu all coming in – and Darlow, Shelvey, Ritchie, Diame, Gayle all dropping out.

Elliot for Darlow was always going to happen and I think when we are looking for the manager’s reasoning on the rest, it isn’t too hard to find.

Rafa may have a poor team/squad but it is still a team/squad that he has to manage the best way he can and try to give it the best chance of picking up points in the weeks and months ahead.

It is telling that four of the five changes are in the front six, with the manager looking to protect players in positions  most susceptible to injury.

Dwight Gayle has just played all three hours of the two home defeats in a four day period, whilst Matt Ritchie had started every Premier League game so far.

You might not think either were great on Wednesday night but if Newcastle are to get out of trouble this pair will be essential to it, especially Gayle with three goals in his last five starts.

At Arsenal we were always very very likely to get beat, no matter who was selected. Far better to have Dwight Gayle able to come on in the final 20 minutes to try and snatch a goal, if the team can stay level up until then, or only one down.

Rafa Benitez isn’t sacrificing this game against the Gunners but I do think he is looking at the bigger picture.

After this afternoon, four of the next five matches are against West Ham, Brighton, Stoke and Swansea (we’ll not mention Manchester Ci…).

The United boss needs to make sure Gayle, Ritchie and others will be around for those challenges, the kind of matches on which our season/survival will stand or fall on.

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  • Toonrobbybobson

    Thats a young team with legs. Hes gone back to what was getting results.

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      they are certainly going to need them Bob

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Isn`t it great to have somebody explain Rafa`s selections, for a minute i thought he`d went off it, but now we all know it`s a cunning plan

  • Mike Adam

    A complete stroke of genius by the Messiah. The master stroke will be when he brings on Slomo in the 71st minute to go after something!

    • Mitros gotta start

      Can you book me in for a reading…..monday at 10?

      • Mike Adam

        sure, and next week Mitro is having his wisdom teeth out and will be unavailable again!!!

  • Mxpx

    With joselu up front we might as well wave the white flag if only we had one without a sports direct logo on

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      23 mins gone, i`m watching the match Hoss has touched the ball twice

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    1 down

  • Essex_Toon

    Crikey, we’ve gone a goal down. Maybe we’ll win this one?!

  • Mrkgw

    Bigger picture? You must be having a laugh Sam. Never mind looking ahead. We are in meltdown and in desperate need of points. None other than the strongest side at all times will do. Its a shambles and Rafa has lost the plot. 1-0 down and he hasn’t got a clue anymore.

  • HappyToons

    Looking at that team it is ‘relegation’ and anyone believe that same team today would come back up. Bobby Robson often got names wrong…Mannequin though would be right for the number 19. I say this as I hope we then win 1-4!

  • DC1964

    Our final ball has been shocking every time we go forward!

    • Leazes Ender

      We haven’t been forward

      • DC1964

        Few times in the final third.

        • MichaelMaximusMoose

          and lost the ball every time. please sub Kart Hoss at the brek

          • DC1964

            Yep, can’t make a decent pass! Looks like damage limitation already! We live in hope!

      • Phil Yare

        i don’t think any of our players know which way that is

        • Leazes Ender

          Elliot does I hope.

          • Phil Yare

            we will have to start counting his goal kicks as attempts on goal

  • 1957

    When the IRWT brigade are making excuses for him before the game has even reached half time it says something about how bizarre his selections are.

    Benitez is clearly auditioning Carry On Clueless

    • Geordiegiants

      You are aware the Liverpool fans used to say the same about his selections and tactics? It isn’t anything new.

      • 1957

        yeah I know from my wife’s Liverpool supporting family he wasn’t as universally loved as some would have you believe. He was roundly criticised for his reliance on foreign journeyman rather than bringing through young players.

        • Geordiegiants

          So it’s nothing to do with losing the plot. That’s his way and it’s been very succseful, until now.

          • Tomb

            Very successful at Valencia and one season for Liverpool. Poor record since then. Won a trophy at Chelsea which every manager does.

          • Geordiegiants

            Ha ha, that’s all is it?

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    We`ve nothing up front

    • Geordiegiants

      We have nothing to put up front!

      • Phil Yare

        diame is primed for action.

    • Phil Yare

      i must be watching a different game mate, joselu is tearing them apart. perez has been great too – hes really dangerous

  • Phil Yare

    garbage as usual. rotate rubbish players so even with their non existent ability they also haven’t got a clue who plays in front, behind, or alongside them

    call me old fashioned but the KK way is best, play your BEST team every game and let injuries and suspensions dictate who is in or out. square pegs in square holes

    i can’t believe what benitez has won in the game based on this. destined for relegation, again.

    • Geordiegiants

      Compare Keegans record and Rafas and I’m sure you might change your tune.

      • Phil Yare

        not really. you make keegan sound like alan pardew

        • Geordiegiants

          No I love Keegan, but I’m talking about winning trophies. Everyone was on Sir Bobbys back about his team selections, but again his record spoke for its self.

          • Phil Yare

            i think we are cursed. if messi came here he’d turn into gouffran

    • 1957

      His wins were generally at clubs with good squads when he took over, the Liverpool team the won the CL only featured 2 of his 6 signings in that year

      • hetonmag

        We’ve had good squads in the past and quite a few different manager’s and never won out so your reasoning is flawed.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Put Matt & Dwight on instead of the dross up front and have a go at them
    Jesus

  • DC1964

    Watched Palace earlier, they were brilliant! Huddersfield are winning 2-0 at Watford. West Ham and West Brom look okay. Is there a team worse than us?!! Swansea perhaps!

    • Phil Yare

      and they have a revitalized bony and abraham isn’t bad either

  • Sid James

    You might have guessed it would be another right Carry On

  • Essex_Toon

    I can’t believe we’re getting bullied out of the game by Arsenal.

    I’m looking forward to watching us win a few in the championship.

  • Phil Yare

    pen for west ham

  • Phil Yare

    west ham winning. now in relegation zone?

    • TheNutJob

      we`ll be there until fatty opens the piggy bank

  • TheNutJob

    been over at the ronnie, the indians are restless and looking for Rafa`s scalp.

  • gallowgate26

    Next season could be like ’09-10, when the Baggies were our main challengers… Only this time they will beat us and Parsnip will do a little dance on the touchline. PCP capital will lose interest and the Ashley nightmare never ends?

    • David Swaddle

      sack rafa, hire a gaffer willing to shake things up and things might change

      • Leazes Ender

        Sling your hook back to a love supreme mackem

  • Danimal

    Desperately trying to imagine three teams who could finish below us and I’m now bringing Stoke into the equation. Could be an interesting match down there, I wonder if Pulis will be back by then…

    • TheNutJob

      no chance, he`ll be here

      • Danimal

        Possible, sadly.

  • TheNutJob

    it get`s worse, Giroud and Welbeck on, c`mon boys there`s only 1 in it

  • DC1964

    No Christmas cheer for this performance!

  • TheNutJob

    SloMo`s coming on for Mikel
    😂😂😂

    • Blackburn1066

      Slomo needs to go

  • DC1964

    It’s taken 80 mins for us to finally have a go!

    • TheNutJob

      yes and Perez & Hoss have made a mess of 3 chances

      • Phil Yare

        the dynamic duo

      • Blackburn1066

        because they are championship

    • Blackburn1066

      he keeps saying, we are what we are, and we are where we are. with no Striker what do you get 80Mins no goals!

    • Tomb

      Exactly I wonder if people praising the performance actually watched the game we should have been 4 down but wasteful finishing and the fact we had a back ten kept the score down

  • nufcslf

    Why would you make a sub when the team is attacking? Bloody ridiculous and kills momentum and SloMo to boot.

    • Phil Yare

      madness, its like hes doing everything to make sure we never ever score a goal again

      • 1957

        He really has to go.

        Benitez has spent nearly five months telling everyone who would listen he needed better players, what must the players there think…they won’t be motivated by him that’s for sure.

        Benitez out

        • Geordiegiants

          Replace him with who?

          • HTL

            exactly, you should only change things to improve them. and who can we get that would be better than Raffa?

          • mentalman

            Hes living on past glories theres many coaches would get more out if the squad

          • HTL

            Who could we get that would be better?

          • mentalman

            Better than rafa is doing now? Theres probably quite a few

          • Geordiegiants

            Who?

          • mentalman

            Nuno esperito santo
            Ronald koeman
            Frank de boer

            You never know until you try them

          • Geordiegiants

            Do you really think they would come?

          • mentalman

            The near 5million rafa gets a year would probably persuade them

            Rafa came and stayed

          • hetonmag

            I and did you here the away support chanting his name at the end of the game nearly 3,000 of them unlike the dozen on this forum who want him out.

          • Blackburn1066

            here, here mate

          • mentalman

            Did the fans sing McLaren’s name at this point of the season when we were in a better position than we are now

          • Geordiegiants

            No because he was a yes man for the regime, Rafa is for the fans fighting against the regime, he is with us, not against us.

          • mentalman

            How is he fighting the regime? By taking 5million a year off them or by relegating the club

          • Geordiegiants

            That’s a very beligerant response, how is he fighting the regime???? You clearly aren’t Stupid, but having to spell out he doesn’t conform to the rules or make excuses or try and promote the shyte that is destroying our club is as obvious as Christmas is coming.
            Have we had another manger that would of dared question Jabba or his strategy?

          • Geordiegiants

            Well said. I think a few of the people on here are trolls anyway, but there is a few genuine fans that don’t want him. There is also a lot of fans that will never be happy no matter what, Sir Bobby is the best example.

          • Blackburn1066

            no

          • Blackburn1066

            he keeps saying, we are what we are, and we are where we are. Because the little fat man upstairs is taking the P-ss

          • 1957

            Spot on, even the Rafaite’s Project Fear bogeyman Pulis would use what he had available better and give us a chance of surviving

          • Blackburn1066

            raffa got us to the Prem then has been given nothing to keep us there (hard cash) so that’s why he keeps saying, we are what we are, and we are where we are.

          • GToon

            Anybody

          • Blackburn1066

            me

        • Phil Yare

          the only positive i can think of with having rafa is that we arn’t getting humped 0-3, 0-4, 0-5 like we did under pardew but even parspews reign (dare i say it cos i can’t stand the man) had more high profile results like man u 3-0, chelsea 2-0 (twice – home and away!) man utd 1-0 away
          rafa’s promotion season makes chris hughtons promotion winning side the greatest entertainers the world has ever seen.
          when we appointed rafa i actually came out and said he’s not actually what we needed at the time because mcclowns teamed was disjointed and had players all over the place. i don’t know who could take the club foward the right way without rafa but one things for sure is that newcastle united have got to go back to basics. first things first get fatty out

  • TheNutJob

    Power failure at Stoke ha ha, hope it`s abandoned

  • Danimal

    Another non-red card to add to the four year list.

  • TheNutJob

    the last 10mins we should have got a goal

  • gallowgate26

    Mackems winning, out of the relegation zone and prevent a whole year without winning at home, FFS….

  • Phil Yare

    when we play man city we wont see such wastefulness from the opposition. it could be worse than ipswich 9-0 defeat at man utd

    • Tino o

      Worrying watching them now some of there stuff is on a different planet! Their goal keeper is better than most of our squad !

      • Phil Yare

        agreed mate. how many subs can you have on a bench? cos i think their bench could beat our 11

        • Tino o

          Without a doubt ! One day ………we can but dream zzzzzzzz

  • nufcslf

    Wonder if Cashley knows that the bottom 3 go down and we are one of them now. Shame because the second half did deserve a goal. Joselu yet another 90 minutes?????????

  • Mrkgw

    Yet again, change needed both in terms of ownership and management. Rafa has lost too many.

    • radji

      Who’s gonna come and do a better job?

      • GToon

        Anybody who looks to adapt the playing style rather than constantly drop/punish players for mistakes leading to a whole squad lacking in confidence and motivation and trust of their manager.

        • Mrkgw

          Agreed GT. Rafa is infuriating at the moment. We can all see it. Its just a matter or time until Charnley swings his little axe.

        • mentalman

          They dont all lack confidence some know that no matter how they play they will not be dropped

          • GToon

            I don’t see any of them being a shoe in. Even the better performers like Clarke have been inexplicably dropped.

          • mentalman

            Yedlin, ritchie’s, lejuene, manquillo

      • Blackburn1066

        Brian Clough

  • DC1964

    Is that 9 defeats on the bounce?

    • Mitros gotta start

      World class manager just beat geordie johns record……woohoo

      • DC1964

        I think it might be 8 defeats and a draw in the last 9 games. Pretty shocking! Goes without saying, we need a result against West Ham next weekend then it’s Man City at home. Brighton, Stoke and Swansea after that, huge games those.

      • Leazes Ender

        Are you the moose?

        • Mitros gotta start

          Aye

  • Danimal

    Positives: Still not adrift after a shocking run, so have a chance to turn the corner. Just a chance. Showing signs of life, sounded a decent performance today, will have to get results from the kinder fixtures. We were never going to survive by beating Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd, although the occasional bonus point would be nice.

    • DC1964

      Should have got a goal in the last ten minutes + injury time. Would have been a bit undeserved though!

    • nufcslf

      Bollocks, had the bloody lead in two of them. No excuses. They all need Brian Clough to come back and kick them square up the backside.

      • Danimal

        To be fair, a dead manager could do better than some of the tools Ashley has given us.

        • nufcslf

          The only thing I could add is that Brian Clough would be a good sport and kick Cashley first. The whole club is just so unfair to the fans. Burns my blood and just so glad when I go outside to walk my black and white dog ‘Keegan’ it is Vancouver and not Newcastle.

        • Blackburn1066

          Brian Clough is among us

          • Danimal

            Well I’m having a right good drink tonight so that’s my tribute.

      • Blackburn1066

        yes, please

    • Toonrobbybobson

      We havent conceded many in this bad run. It might be our saviour end of season. We need an uplift though – some spark. Players are devoid of confidence at the moment.

      • Mitros gotta start

        Doesnt help with the manager constantly telling the press they arent good enough and need replacing in january

        • mentalman

          Once rafa retires from football management he wont be reinventing himself as a motivational speaker

      • Blackburn1066

        you need a striker

      • Danimal

        Agreed. And let’s face it, all is as expected. Pity the genius owner couldn’t grasp these facts.

    • Blackburn1066

      you will never win games with no striker

      • Danimal

        Agreed.

  • DC1964

    Got Brighton, Stoke and Swansea in a row after West Ham and Man City. Those games are massive!

  • nufcslf

    Just watching the Man. City match and thinking what damage they are going to us at St. James’ in a couple of weeks. Making Spurs look like, well us. Was beginning to think Sterling was the new Joselu from the 3 chances he missed and now he has 2 goals from the player’s around him. Oh! to be a City supporter. Is it the future us, not a fu** ing chance. Thanks Mike.