There is no other way of saying this, the media coverage of our approach to last night’s game against Manchester City was an absolute disgrace.

How anyone can criticise the approach of Rafa Benitez to this situation is beyond me, particularly in such trying circumstances. I expect it from sections of twitter ‘fans’ and others who probably hardly attend or watch in close detail on television, but for quality, respected pundits to do so is genuinely astonishing.

Yet Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, two pundits who are normally a joy to listen to, should be embarrassed by comments made in the sky coverage of the City game. Carragher’s comment of the league becoming “a joke” because of the pattern of play in the first thirty minutes is the type of ridiculous overreaction usually reserved for the Robbie Savages and Chris Suttons of the punditry world.

It’s abysmal short-sighted punditry from a man who himself knows the wide variety of tactics and ways to win that can be employed to win football matches. He even said in a radio interview this year that the one thing he would change in football would be to get rid of the obsession with “playing out from the back”. Maybe Nev and Carra were just fulfilling the aims set by Sky, of having their pundits at the front of the post-game chat, driving the agenda for wider discussion around the match. Even so I thought the comments were naïve, unimaginative and a noticeable blotch on their records as pundits.

Yes, we were playing purely to contain City in the first half but firstly, there is nothing wrong with that when they are on an incredible winning streak and destroying whatever is put in front of them. Secondly, this type of game-plan is hardly new in the Premier League. Particularly since the mid-2000s sides towards the bottom of the division have become better organised and more of a challenge for the big teams to just swat aside. They must use everything in their weaponry to do so, and Rafa did this on Wednesday, played to our strengths by setting us up so deep and narrow. It frustrated the runaway league leaders.

City may have dominated possession as expected, but so what? They dominate possession against everyone. It was not easy for them, and you could see the sheer relief in their celebrations when Sterling scored. When you are in sport or any competitive environment and your opponent is far more capable than you, the basic first tactic should be, to do what your opponent least wants you to do.

Manchester City did not want us to set-up as we did, proven by Pep’s irritated comments of us “not wanting to play” in his post-match interview. I find it baffling how so many people either involved in football, or watching, are ridiculing the approach Benitez and the side took to this game.

They are also ignoring how the game-plan virtually worked, and had Dwight Gayle buried that chance towards the end, we would have been the side to stop City’s incredible run. It also took a brilliant piece of defensive play from Otamendi to keep us from equalising immediately.

The whole response really has made me question the standard of football coverage/journalism in this country. Observers turned their noses up at us shooting from kick-off, but they forget Jonjo Shelvey has nearly scored from his own half for us on multiple occasions already, and the chances of scoring are only going to be increased the more attempts he has.

No one seemed to have a problem with newly-promoted Stoke City coming up and utilising Rory Delap’s long throws to score goals and get points. Why that was allowed by the football purist brigade I don’t know, maybe because it worked consistently? That’s acceptable. Maybe it was because back then Stoke were still considered a novelty in the Premier League, something that Newcastle United will never be even after a couple of relegations.

Everyone loves the game for different reasons but personally I believe a big part of why football is so fascinating, particularly at professional level, is how such a wide variety of tactics can be employed. I would say the football Man City have played this season has been brilliant, but I would also say there is no one ‘correct’ way the game should be played. We love football because it can bring such a contrast in styles of play and that is what we saw on Wednesday night.

I played in a team a couple of years ago that scored twice shooting from kick-off, in one season. Lesser standard of football, yes, but the principal remains the same. You play to your strengths. When we first tried it (from the actual kick-off) our opponents started laughing and making remarks. When we tried it again later in the game after conceding a late goal it went it. I don’t remember too many of them laughing as the goalkeeper picked the ball out of the net.

Gary Neville, usually my pundit of choice, blasted us for playing with ‘no ambition’. Actually Gary we did play with ambition, the ambition to limit the quality of chances the league leaders had, and to stay in the game for as long as possible. Mission accomplished, even if it wasn’t quite enough to get something from the game. The comments of the pundits really showed up Sky pundits’ limited appreciation of the situation most clubs in the league find themselves in – a relegation dogfight. Rotating the side ahead of a huge game against Brighton on Saturday was the right call, particularly considering we have a day less than our opponents to prepare.

It’s not as if Rafa hasn’t employed containment or “parking the bus” tactics before, he knows exactly when they are necessary. In the 2005 Champions League semi-final Liverpool were up against a Chelsea side that were hugely superior in terms of technical ability and could probably give the current Man City side a game. He employed an ultra-defensive formation and gameplan. With two defensive left-sided players and a lone striker who was out of the game for much of the ninety minutes. They nicked an early goal, and then defended for all they were worth and carried out the plan perfectly. Sure, they had to ride their luck at times, but it worked.

I don’t remember the Liverpool tactics then over the two legs getting any criticism. It seems to be allowed if it’s a ‘big game’. When you are the only televised Sky game on that day, you better entertain or be damned if you don’t.

As rightly pointed out, we were more open at Chelsea and Manchester United and lost. Neither were terrible displays, but we were a lot closer to getting something on Wednesday night, against a superior team, arguably the best in Europe at the moment. Those criticising Rafa Benitez and his tactics need to have a serious re-assessment of the situation and gain some perspective.

We spent £30 odd million in the summer, they spent £215 million. We had won 1 game in the last 10, they had won 17 in a row. Rafa did his absolute best to maximise his resources and give us a chance of getting something from the game.

I won’t apologise for that, least of all to the ‘sky’ monkeys. He is the best manager we have had in recent times and the only one who gives us a chance of some future success.

Finally, remember that in Steve McClaren’s only game against Man City, we played quite a positive attacking game in the first half and led through Mitrovic. We eventually lost 6-1. I dread to think what that City team would have done to a McClaren led Newcastle. I certainly know who I want in charge of this great club.

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  • Wor Lass

    “Who pays the piper calls the tune” Neville`s sending a message from his masters – Sky TV. That game wasn`t one for the neutral and it exposed the gulf in class that the Sky (and BT) money has largely created. In a way it reminds me of Trump threatening the UN countries that voted against America recently. We`ve got the money so dance to our tune!

    • Leazes Ender

      I hope all clubs do this from now on…. Sky have done this to football….. serves them right for creating the divide.

      • justchampion

        Exactly and no one in the media has stuck their head above the parapet.

        • Leazes Ender

          Shearer peaked over briefly but was told to get his head down by his MOTD colleagues.

      • Jezza

        Agreed. No organisation or individual has ever done more damage to football in this country than Sky. They have singlehandedly destroyed our national game in the pursuit of greed.

    • TheFatController

      My thoughts entirely. We play a hugely entertaining game at West Ham, then defensive at home to City.

      No major story there. Unless you’re televising the defensive game! Then it’s a major problem.

      And there’s always got to be blame, and never any responsibility landing with themselves.

      They should just ‘get over it’.

    • Jezza

      Spot on.

  • Leazes Ender

    Were you there Jack?…. It sounds to me like you watched it on TV….. you missed the full horror of the set up.

    It was as shocking to watch as the commentators said….. Yes it was.

    I hate Neville but he’s your commentator of choice?

    • anyobrien

      I enjoyed it and it nearly paid off we limited them to long distance shots and they got frustrated… I’ve played in games like this myself,(obviously not professional) and it’s hard graft. We did what we had to do.

    • Mark Potter

      It didn’t shock me, it was exactly what was required. We didn’t take a mental beating. We didn’t hammer our goal difference. We gave opportunities to some “fringe” players (Mbemba, Aarons), who acquitted themselves well. We rested some important players who should be back in the team today (Ritchie, Gayle, Merino). So we used our squad well, given the injuries, and the very important games coming up. And we nearly got a point. Much closer to doing so than most teams, including Klopp’s expensive flops, who conceded 5.

      And BTW a good defensive display, organised, controlled, disciplined can be entertaining.

      If I have any complaint it was in playing Yedlin. Again responsible for conceding a goal by not tracking his man. He is a really bad defender. I would much rather have seen Manquillo playing right back.

  • Whickhamrobbie

    Was not pretty and we lost but if goal difference keeps us up then who cares .
    Football is a sport not entertainment .

    • Leazes Ender

      Its not either at SJP.

    • ghostrider

      So, if football isn’t for entertainment then why pay footballers to play the game?
      Why not just keep it as amateur?

      • justchampion

        It’s a business.

        • ghostrider

          So you go to a football ground to see how a business is run and have no intention of bothering to get entertained or demand it….right?

          Seriously?

          • anyobrien

            You don’t even go man ffs

          • ghostrider

            I don’t care what you believe to be perfectly honest. lol

          • Mark Potter

            So you don’t go? Did you even watch it?

          • ghostrider

            You can say that as many times as you feel satisfied with but it will not make anything you say, true…but fill your boots Mr plastic.

          • anyobrien

            Plastic he’s nicking my patter now… This is comedy gold man.. 😂 😂

          • ghostrider

            Wow, did you make that up all by yourself?
            And here’s me copying. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

          • anyobrien

            Reet I’m off to the crows nest and then the hotspur before the game… You fancy a pint me and the lads could do with a laf….. Look forward to your comments post game after your tea and biscuits… Bandwagon boy.

          • ghostrider

            I’ll be setting off in 1 hour.
            Don’t forget you get yourself a good stream and keep that can of ace cold.

          • anyobrien

            Then stop replying you plastic

          • ghostrider

            Says the action man in a box. lol

          • anyobrien

            In a box?… Wtf you on about now… Your the gift that keeps giving aren’t you… Box.. 😂 😂

          • ghostrider

            Unwrapped.

          • Jezza

            He’s just bored because it’s the school holidays.

          • Jezza

            Double standards, ghostbuster. You have regularly gone to great lengths on this forum to defend Ashley’s lack of spending in the transfer market but you complain about Rafa’s tactics causing a lack of entertainment. Surely a lack of spending in the transfer market deprives the paying spectators at St James’s Park of entertainment too.

          • ghostrider

            Not double standards at all.
            I don’t defend Ashley’s lack of spending, I defend Ashley when he gets unfair criticism where everything is placed at his door and yet people like Rafa and co are almost god like and without blame.

            Excuses are made for Rafa’s bad buys and channeled into Ashley’s scrooge spending.
            The double standards are from your side.

            If the club spends it’s all fine but if the buys from the spends are bad and it’s a manager that’s not liked, the owner should have brought in a better manager and should have give the better manager more, whilst the original manager is deemed as scum.

            We get in a supposed better manager and hand him a lot of cash. He spends that cash on players not needed and scrimps on the needed ones.
            Result is, the owner is a greedy git who’s net spend is the only thing worth noting because the overall real spend doesn’t make the new manager look good.

            Excuses after excuses made for a complete and utter fool of a manager who masquerades as a world class manager and has managed to con Ashley out of 5 million a year.

            Wide eyed fans almost idolising a man that is a total clown.

          • Jezza

            The only example of a person idolising a total clown round here is you idolising Ashley.

          • ghostrider

            Your love for a mercenary in Rafa who is literally and smugly treating you to utter garbage, is baffling.

          • Jezza

            I don’t love Rafa I just acknowledge that he has been put in an impossible position by Ashley. If Ashley had only allowed Rafa the same transfer budget of Championship clubs like Middlesborough and Wolves we would not be in this position now.

          • ghostrider

            Impossible position my aris.
            He put himself in a less than ideal position by buying players he didn’t need then not shipping out players he didn’t want, then whining that he couldn’t get in a top striker.
            The man created his own problems and made them worse by literally breeding the talent out of the players he bought by playing them like planks.

            Middlesbrough are in the championship with an owner that the fans love and yet that owner has spent more time in the championship than in the premier league.

            So what are you trying to say?
            As for Wolves; they’ve had flirts at the top end of the championship and flirts at the bottom.
            This is their serious push with plenty of cash on the hip.
            How long will that last?

            Don’t be using Wolves or Middlesbrough or anyone else from the championship when Rafa had the biggest budget of them all with 80 million.

          • Jezza

            You talk as if Ashley wanted to sign Harry Kane for £200 million but Rafa said it was a waste of money and decided to sign Joselu instead.

          • ghostrider

            No I’m not. You’re obviously trying to imply that.
            I’m saying that Rafa failed to get targets he needed in favour of targets he wanted.
            By witnessing his putrid and negative football for long enough I can see why 5 million on a SPANISH Joselu suited Rafa because Joselu was used for graft and not for the purpose of being a striker.

            You could stick Suarez in that team and Rafa would destroy him.
            Rafa Benitez is no good for this club and all fans know it but daren’t admit it because it might hurt Rafa’s feelings or make them appear deluded, when the truth is, he needs kicking out of the club with a size 12 boot up his aris.

          • Jezza

            More blatant falsehoods ghostbuster. Middlesborough had a much bigger NET SPEND than Rafa this summer. Three times as much in fact. They spent £26 million on two strikers. Rafa was given a mere ££5 million for a striker by your beloved Ashley.

          • ghostrider

            Net spend, Net spend.
            Get real and remember what buying is all about, as well as selling.

            Whatever money is raised by selling players is handed to the manager to buy players….right?
            Whether a few million has to be added or there’s a few million surplus, it still equates to a lot of money spent, whether you want to hide it behind a net spend or not.

      • anyobrien

        I was entertained even though it was freezing cold I enjoyed the tactical battle of attack v defence.. I thought the lads carried out there task brilliantly… And it nearly paid off.

        • ghostrider

          I’ll tell you what mate. If you seriously enjoyed that then fair enough.
          There was no tactical battle and no enjoyment from where I was sitting.

          The tactics were panic battles. Last ditch tackles and basic headless chicken running for most part.

          Rafa flipped the coin of luck and got lucky in a 0-1 defeat and there’s no other way to dress it up.

          If you enjoyed that match then no wonder Rafa is untouchable if that’s the mindset.

          • anyobrien

            Sitting in the house

          • ghostrider

            That’s ok mate there’s nothing wrong with you sitting in your house watching highlights or paying for sky or whatever.
            It doesn’t make you any less of a supporter/fan.

  • anyobrien

    There a couple of bell ends I don’t listen to any pundits not even big Al I watch the games or highlights and switch off… Stating the obvious ffs its a joke

  • NE5

    These 2 are both successful players at successful clubs. If we can’t learn something from them, who can you learn from. Carragher has played for Rafa at Liverpool that criticism would not have been done lightly. He is also an intelligent guy with no obvious axe to grind read his book if you don’t believe me.

    • Geordiegiants

      Learn from what? There management skills are none existent. Ones got no idea and the other is a loser in the management game.

      • NE5

        Irrelevant. If you really think taking on board methods and ideas from trophy winning clubs isn’t beneficial, especially one who played for Rafa and won trophies under him, at least read his book and you will see he is an intelligent guy. The only time we had anywhere near the club we ought to have is when we tried to do things like the successful clubs. What exactly do you think the problem is at Newcastle if you aren’t prepared to listen to outsiders who have had real success ? Those tactics were a shambles, Pardew and Allardyce would have been slaughtered for it but the real person to blame for 10 years is Ashley and nobody else. Nobody will ever succeed like Keegan and Bobby Robson did under Ashley unless the club is run like it was under those from the top.

    • Paul Smith

      Well I know Gary Neville lost 7-0 when managing Valencia… If we used his idea of what’s acceptable against Man City we might have been on the end of a similair result.

  • Geordiegiants

    The pair of them are well equipped to talk about players and how good or bad they are, as the pair of them were world class players. When it comes to management Carragher hasn’t got the gonads to try, and Neville is a complete loser. Why anyone would even rise to their comments is crazy.

  • Dave Pattinson

    Hope Rafa remembered to submit today’s team sheet & formation to Neville & Carragher for their approval and possible advice.

  • Popnbgd

    I really don’t understand such an outrage with Neville and Caragher’s comments…I think they were not critical enough…No one should be free of critics,specially a manager of the team that performs poorly….All of the members “In Rafa we trust” cult,sect or whatnot,should realize that in the end,Rafa is the most responsible person for our team performances…

  • luciano26

    Sky guys were correct. Dont compare what Liverpool does, they are in a different league. Seems you want to have it both ways, bellyaching about what Man City spent.