Many column inches were written and many a word was spoken about the supposed Rafa Benitez negative tactics against Citeh, in both our home and away games over the festive and new year period.

Not least the voice of the odious Gary Neville, who seemed disappointed that we didn’t just lie down and let the 850million Euro juggernaut score to their heart’s content.

The tactics Rafa chose – and almost pulled off – were to sit back and hope for a goal on the break. This didn’t transpire and we lost both games – 0-1 at St James Park and 3-1 at the Etihad.

Given how tight it is from 10th to 19th in the league, a goal difference of -2 over those two games may yet be the difference between survival and relegation at the end of the season. There are a good few teams who will come out with a worse goal difference than us come May and it may well be largely about how they fared against the Sky Blues: West Brom -4, Crystal Palace -5, Watford -8. Stoke are on -5 with a game to play, Swansea with -4. Our next opposition, Bournemouth, are on -5.

By no means will the two games against Manchester City be the only factor in the final goals tally, but our two games don’t look too shabby in this context and should we survive on GD (hopefully it won’t come to that) Rafa’s tactics will have to be seen as a masterstroke.

It’s the failure of pundits to see this larger picture that is really frustrating – but what is worse is when another team pulls the same stunt and is lauded for their approach.

The difference, of course, is the other team to adopt the same approach ran out 1-0 winners – I refer of course to Wigan. Largely assisted by a generous refereeing decision to send their opponents down to ten men and a gift by Kyle Walker, Wigan pulled off a fantastic result. No one gave them a chance before the match and it’s a great football story.

One can only wonder had we been offered the same numerical advantage for 45 minutes and a slice of dodgy defending what could have happened (although time has taught me that NUFC are very capable of turning even the easiest game into a war of attrition, so to beat a ten-man City side would be no foregone conclusion).

But the tactics employed by Paul Cook were straight out of Rafa’s playbook and are reflected in the statistics –

Stats for possession and shots:

27 December 2017

Newcastle v Man City (22% and 78%, 6 and 22)

20 January 2018

Man City v Newcastle (81% and 19%, 21 and 6)

19 February 2018

Wigan v Man City (17% and 83%, 4 and 29)

One could argue that we should have given Man City a better run for their money than a League One side managed – but other much better teams than us had stood toe to toe with them and received a pasting – Leicester being the latest to spend most of their match retrieving the ball from their own net.

The truth is that we didn’t have and don’t have the quality to have approached the matches in any other way – we are not Liverpool. Any domestic team to beat Man City this year needs to either put in the performance of their lives and/or enjoy a large slice of good fortune. Wigan got both, we didn’t.

But the result from last night further vindicates Benitez’ approach in our league matches and, had luck been with us, we could have walked away with more than nul points and a comparatively respectable goal difference.

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  • GToon

    See the FA aren’t going to charge Aguero for having a swing at and then trying to get at the Wigan fan. Just imagine if it was one of our players who had done that. They’d probably reinstate the gallows at Gallowgate. The hypocrisy of the FA knows no bounds. What’s the betting Guardiola gets off without anything either for his attack on Wigan’s manager and trying to get at the ref at half time as shown by the “big club loving” BBC.

    • paul mclaughlan

      What, you kid right? The fan spat in his ear. Of course he hasn’t been charged. Any other human would’ve reacted the same.

      • Big Al 1967

        I would have done more than try to grab him if someone spat in my lughole!!

        • paul mclaughlan

          I’m not a fan of citeh whatsoever. But I can understand Aguero going mental. Horrible behaviour is spitting.

          • Big Al 1967

            Citeh are looking into the possibility of having the Scumbag fan being charged with common assault. Good luck to them
            Got to be honest though only have feelings of dislike for Wigan after the Hiadara incident and the way both their chairman and manager went on afterwards.

      • GToon

        Probably. If it was Mitrovic or joey Barton they would have been banned. Barton had stuff lobbed at him v the mackems. If he’d reacted he would have been banned.

        • paul mclaughlan

          Maybe maybe not. One thing is certain he had every right reacting the way he did. Would rather have a seat thrown at me than being spat at.

          • GToon

            To be honest Paul my post is a load of hypothetical rubbish really. I just get fed up with the way our club gets treated. I’m still seething over that Harry Kane lunge on Lejeune that put him out for weeks that avoided punishment. Anyway I won’t go on. Like is said, even I think my post is rubbish!

    • Jezza

      The thing that annoys me is the way the football authorities have media have suddenly fallen in love with Man City ever since they have had all that money thrown at them and started buying trophy after trophy. A decade ago they regarded Man City as a joke, just a horrible unfashionable Northern working class club, with a big support but no trophies for years and perpetually living in the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours.

  • pedrodelgardo

    Rafa’s tactics were vindicated when Jonjo had a shooting chance in the last minute at 0-1 in the home game.

  • Leazes.

    I see the chronicle are sticking the boot into Pardew….. a far cry from running polls to proclaim ‘95% are right behind you Pards…..

    Ryder always called him Pards…. first name terms.

  • Big Al 1967

    Just watched Chelsea play exactly the same way against Barcelona. My telly’s sound must be playing up because I never heard any criticism of Chelsea’s tactics. Funny that!

    • ghostrider

      That’s because they didn’t play like you said.

      • Damon Horner

        27% possession but more shots, a similar plan was executed with the intention of keeping out Barcelona’s better players through team shape they just have better quality players in forward areas.

        • ghostrider

          Possession is fine for any team who has the majority of it but it does not tell the real story of most games in terms of overall play.
          Barcelona are well known for knocking the ball to each other so naturally they will have the lions share of possession in most games.
          It’s what you actually do with that possession which is the key to any win or entertainment value.

          Our problems stem from not doing much with the possession we generally get in many matches.
          Like I said, it’s pointless sugar coating something that we can all blatantly see is wrong or has been wrong in many a set up this season with us.
          It’s been dire to watch for a reason in many games.

          • Dillon Tovak

            Tis true. Chelsea deserved a win in my eyes, Willian was the best player on the pitch.

        • Cockneytrev

          exactly,,, when Chelsea break , they have Willian and hazard,,, who do we have,,, ?

  • Kev-82

    The games were nothing alike, Wigan had 2 or 3 chances in the first 15 minutes, yes it was with counter attacks but in our home game, we weren’t even trying to do that till they scored we camped in our half and booted the ball back to them when we had it rather than get them on the break.

  • stevetoontoon

    next tyne / wear derby gateshead v the tramps!!!!! Ha love it me

    • paul mclaughlan

      The makems are Donald Ducked.

      • stevetoontoon

        Even the pink seats are turning white!!!!

  • Jimmy_toons

    One of the main differences being that in Grigg, Wigan have a centre forward who knows how to stick the ball in the back of the net.

    • Dillon Tovak

      Let’s be honest though, Joselu is probably better than Grigg. Gayle definitely is.

  • Down Under Mag

    At the end of the season if we stay up on goal difference then Rafa will be commended for not giving up goals in a pointless attempt to placate media interests in their new favoured side. If we go down anyway then it won’t be because of the Man City game and “not having a go at them”. Rafa has made some mistakes, got some key things wrong, but every manager does and overall I don’t see us being in the position we are in without him at the helm.

  • ghostrider

    Let’s not sugar coat Rafa’s misgivings.
    Yes he’s a good manager, obviously.
    Yes he has the ability to use tactics.
    Yes he has integrity as we keep being reminded.
    But he does mess up and he is stubborn and he also takes caution too far on many occasions.
    It’s fine people saying ” ohhh Rafa proved the doubters wrong by only getting beat by a lower score than many off Man City” etc… but the reality of the situation is much worse than that in terms of squad mentality and well being and the potential risks being took, in sort of parking the bus against these teams.

    The stark reality is, we stopped Man City from playing their natural game in one sense………we bored them. We turned their challenge into a training game for them and an energy zapping chasing game for us.

    I don’t give a rats aris what people say about getting beat by a low score. It’s not acceptable in any way shape or form, at any time….all for the sake of holding a so called slightly better goal difference for an end of season relegation fight….which should tell anyone a story of the mindset of Rafa if that’s his goal/set up.

    11 against 11 plus subs.
    You balance it all out and you take the opportunities to have a go as and when the situation requires it…because the fans require it as well.
    The fans do not pay good money to talk about how their team managed to stop getting massacred by refusing to play football.

    Fans want to be talking about how their team had a real go at the so called elite and although got beat, they tried to win the game.

    So no, Rafa is not vindicated…but I’ll tell you what he is. He is a good manager who has the ability to get more out of his squad and who actually seems to be starting to do just that.
    The last few games saw an upturn in his mindset even though I still don’t like his siege mentality in the last 20 minutes….it’s still better than the siege mentality of all game or at least the entire second half of many.

    The football I want to see is the football we play when we have a go for 90 minutes.
    I’d rather have that and lose 4-0 than have the park the bus job and lose 1-0.
    Newcastle fans don’t generally accept this and berate and slate managers who dare to employ it….so don’t just accept it this time.
    We don’t deserve it and the players don’t like it, regardless of them playing for Rafa and having respect.

    No one’s asking for him to be slated but asking for a balanced set up is not asking for too much with this squad, which is capable of more and can produce more with players who weren’t supposedly worth a light being men of the match…etc.

    It’s much better to coax the ability from a player than to stifle it, which enhances the overall team mentality.
    Team/squad confidence starts at the front and ends at the back.
    Generally we employ that mindset in the first 45 minutes of 99% of matches….why not 90 plus?

    • pedrodelgardo

      It wasn’t energy sapping that was the point! No recovery runs needed when you don’t leave your half – jeez!

      • ghostrider

        I’m on about energy zapping when you spend the majority of a game chasing shadows and/or trying to defend in a frenzy at times.
        That’s energy zapping, both mentally and physically…especially trying to cope with a negative mentality.

        • pedrodelgardo

          Rubbish, it is the long sprints that wear you out, Rafa’s tactics were to save energy for the last 20 mins when we had a go, have you ever kicked a ball?

          • Cockneytrev

            He knows nothing about football ,,, he’s a pro Ashley troll,,,

          • pedrodelgardo

            Thanks for the heads up – I knew he was a troll I didn’t realise that he knows nowt about the game.

          • Jezza

            The only game the troll knows is something called War Hammer. Apparently it’s one of those fantasy games that are very popular with socially disfunctional 40 year old virgins.

          • ghostrider

            Save energy for the last 20 minutes?
            No no no.
            Rafa’s ideals was to expend energy having a go in the first half and then come out in the second half and be worn down to shadow chasing for almost the entire second halves of many games….even at home and even against teams around us.

          • pedrodelgardo

            You don’t know what you are talking about. Stunned!

    • Damon Horner

      I think fans like you got Robson sacked:

      “5th place is fine but if that Robson hadn’t have done _______ then we’d be in the Champions League again”.

      You can pick holes with every manager we get, fact is Rafa hasn’t been stubborn about anything that mattered greatly and the best managers in PL history have been very stubborn, Mourinho and Ferguson come to mind. Too cautious? matter of opinion and a bit irrelevant for me, the caution hasn’t stopped us from achieving this year so you’re debating whether Joselu should be on 4 or 6 goals or we should be 12th not 13th really.

      I’d like to be entertained at St James’ Park but that is less likely if we dropped a division, just have to trust the manager knows his job in a time like this.

      • mentalman

        rafa has been stubborn about playing his best team to the best of their abilities and allowing them to form partnerships.

        The caution has lost us games we could have won and also made us draw games that we could have won so it has stopped us achieving

        • Damon Horner

          poor team,no partnerships on field, stubborn and over bearing manager, negative and confidence sapping approach, no wonder we’re cut adrift in relegation zone. Wait, we’re not though?
          what have we missed out on achieving?

      • ghostrider

        But that’s just the problem with your thinking. It’s not fans like me that get managers sacked who entertain me and generally pick a team that is generally expected and accepted at the time.

        My entire Newcastle United existence is very simple.
        I EXPECT a squad that puts all their efforts into the well being of the club and the fans.
        I expect to be entertained as and when humanly possible.

        I do not expect us to finish any season in certain positions but I always have hope that we can do better than the last.

        I expect any manager to pick the best players available as and when humanly possible and to play them in a set up that befits their talent unless a contingency plan is needed due to injuries.

        So using 5th place being not good enough and wanting Robson sacked is not the fan I am.
        I defended Pardew for long enough because he got his teams to play football even if he was all the things people said he was.

        I remember fans begging him to stay when the England job was bandied about for him when he was doing well with us.
        Nobody was against him then…or if they were it was small pockets of wannabe elites.

        Pardew became an Ashley yes man to many fans who then started making up all kinds of stories as to why Ashley kept him on as manager..all because he didn’t push on from the 5th place.

        Were you one of those?
        The stories made up were comical. All by people with nothing better to do than hate and single certain people out as “cockney” this and that.
        Of course you get the arguments of, ” we’re not like that because we’ve had cockney players here” and what not.
        Garbage.
        If they do well it’s hunky dory. If they falter they’re cockney gits and (add in the expletives that has been used).

        And saying I’m sort of debating whether Joselu is on 4 or 6 goals or 12th or 13th isn’t even the issue.
        Being stubborn and leaving out players that could have added a lot more to the overall team, offensive wise… but those players were left out in the cold and players like Joselu were used for his ability to graft his aris off and absorb punishment in doing so, rather than being used as any main striking focus.

        And as for saying the caution hasn’t stopped us achieving this year…..what does that mean exactly?
        We’ve achieved nothing until we achieve something of note, because avoiding relegation is not an achievement for Rafa if relegation is not a blot on his managerial/coaching in fans mindset.

        Fans can’t use the old ” Rafa kept us up even though we are a championship team…all hail Rafa”
        And then in the same potential, shout ” we were relegated because Ashley refused to buy and Rafa was left with a squad of championship players who just weren’t good enough…so it’s not Rafa’s fault.”

        The simple solution is there for anyone to see.
        If Rafa plays balanced football and uses the players for their worth and not just because he feels stubborn on certain days, then we’ll stay up easily with a premier league team, not a championship team.

        If Rafa reverts back to too much caution he will come unstuck and we will certainly go down unless the teams below (at least 3) do diabolically worse than we do.

        He’s got the tools to easily finish the job and have us comfortable. He’s a good manager so he has absolutely no excuses for not doing it.
        I trust that he will because I trust that he’ll start to play a more balanced game which gives us some entertainment value as much as a trench mentality.

        If he does not carry on from this point and we do go down there’s only one person to blame and one person only. Rafa Benitez…and there’s no excuses.

        Simple as that really.

        • paul mclaughlan

          “Cockney bastards”. You can use bastards on here. As long as you don’t forget the “s”.

          • ghostrider

            No intention of.

          • paul mclaughlan

            Yeah but bastards is a better insult.

          • ghostrider

            That’s your prerogative.

          • paul mclaughlan

            I just like swearing. I’m a 51 year old child.

        • Jimmy_toons

          Managing a premier league must be easy then. What a load of tosh. A lot more objectivity in your opinion wouldn’t go amiss

          • ghostrider

            Correct, very few supporters were behind Pardew being appointed at the expense of a manager that had done very little wrong (Hughton).
            That’s not the point I was making though….however, seeing as you’ve paved that road we will address those issues.

            When Pardew got us off to a great start and we basically had a decent run, Hughton was left to fade into the distance with the odd ” cheers Chris, you did a great job for us.”
            Then it was back to Pardew and the love/hate affair started.

            The very same kind of thing happened with Allardyce coming into change things up, only for Ashley to come in and appoint Keegan in short order.
            The fans got excited by Keegans appointment and basically let Allardyce go with a whimper….despite what people think of him right now.
            You see, Allardyce started the season very well but dropped off a little bit towards Christmas and was already on the whipping end of the boo boys tongues.
            Imagine if Rafa had had a bit of a dodgy run……..oh wait…..anyway, never mind, it’s not that important.

            You see, Keegan was an earlier playing messiah and a managing messiah. He could do no wrong, even when he was basically doing no right.
            Everything that went wrong was Ashley’s fault or other people’s fault….just not Keegans.
            The very same with Rafa now. A new messiah who can do no wrong for some.

            Can people remember the argument with Allardyce’s departure when fans looked for a good reason as to why he wasn’t up to it after a hand full of games?
            His football was so boring to watch.
            And ” you don’t know what you’re doing.”
            This after only 24 games.
            Who’s to blame for his departure?
            Ashley?
            The fans?
            Allardyce himself for not being fast enough to change things?

            Whatever it was for some or the many is not the point. The point is, he was sacked in favour of a manager that was literally a footballing managerial dinosaur who was out of the loop.

            The thing is, too many people had too many recent historical memories of the Keegan courtship and it appeared there was another Sir John Hall at the helm, only this time it was billionaire and not multi millionaire.

            Don’t go on about managers being yes men because they all are.
            They are employees……employ-EES not employ-ERS.

            They follow a set out pattern to work under that is written into their contracts with (most likely) some scope for change as and when required.
            Rafa as well as other managers will get their contracts set out.
            Rafa may have had a little bit more leeway than others (maybe) but certainly will not be allowed to call the shots over the club.
            He’s a players manager/coach, not an admin or owner or secretary, etc.

            So Pardew was a yes man, right?
            All managers are yes men and they all live and die by their attitudes or mistakes or their success…no matter who they are.
            Some are rightly sacked and some are wrongly sacked, according to fans on the field vision.
            The background is another issue and one we can all speculate on and debate on and all argue a case as though our case is more correct…but the reality can and usually is more clearer than the blurred lines we read and make issues of.

            We all think we kn ow better and that’s what creates debate and literally what creates the bickering among us all.
            Nature of the beast, as I said before.

          • Jezza

            Ignore him, marra. He’s a troll and not a Newcastle supporter. He just likes to call for Rafa to be sacked because he knows it winds people up and provokes a reaction. He praises Pardew for exactly the same reason. Don’t give him the satisfaction.

          • Jimmy_toons

            I sometimes wonder if he and his associates actually work for the mag, and write … I’ll call it ‘stuff’ simply to get a reaction and to increase the hits on the site. A shock jock kind of contributor.
            After looking at the length of the post, I couldn’t be harrassed to read it.

          • Jezza

            I can’t see his posts any more as I blocked all his ID’s a while ago. Still I’ve got a pretty shrewd idea what he’s saying because he never changes. He’s hit on a line of rhetoric that is proven to provoke a reaction and he’s sticking with it.

          • Jezza

            He’s only got one associate and that’s his brother. The pair of them troll this site under multiple ID’s.

  • Damon Horner

    I prefer to look at it on balance, we were never going to do anything special this year so if we stay up then job done. Aim to take it up a level next year.

    • paul mclaughlan

      14th in the league?😂

      • Damon Horner

        Thinking more the heights of 11th mate unless Rafa uses his contacts and signs Bale and Isco!

        • paul mclaughlan

          11th? Stop, I’m having a panic attack.

        • Dillon Tovak

          Bale and Isco is unrealistic.
          Isco on a pay as you play deal with a £500 sports direct voucher if we win the FA Cup is more realistic 🙂

          • Damon Horner

            No doubt. Ticks the being ambitious box when it gets known we were outpriced trying to sign him.

  • mentalman

    why is there a constant drip of articles trying to defend rafa

  • Hughie_Gallacher

    The criticism of Rafa is naïve at best. At worst, it is the work of trolls aiming to deflect attacks away from Ashley.

    • Jezza

      Yes a total two trolls to be precise, brothers who post here under multiple ID’s and aren’t even Newcastle supporters.

  • Dillon Tovak

    Wigan’s great football story is slightly marred if it’s true one of their fans spat at Aguero, one of the greatest footballers this countries ever seen.