Saturday finished Newcastle 3 Southampton 0.
Rafa’s team going ahead after 70 seconds, then Kenedy adding his and Newcastle’s second just before the half hour mark.
Matt Ritchie completed the scoring in the 57th minute and United ran out very comfortable winners.
The Editor asked me beforehand to write about 3 positives and 3 negatives from the game.
Have we finally found our best team?
Rafa named the same team that lined up against Man United.
With the exception of Slimani, although we are yet to see what he can do, I think yesterday was our best team.
Dubravka in goal has been an inspirational signing from Rafa. Lascelles, Yedlin and Dummett at the back are no-brainers, while Lejeune is starting to show why he was one of Rafa’s first choice signings and why he spent £9m.
When Jonjo Shelvey turns up, there is no doubt that he is a top Premier League player, the real Mo Diame has yet to be returned from captivity so for the moment we have the new Mo Diame remaining our most in-form player. Matt Ritchie has found his form again from last season, after a massive dip in performances over Christmas. Meanwhile Kenedy has been another brilliant signing, who for me will be playing for a decent European side next year rather than Newcastle (the likes of Lyon, Marseille, Benfica, Sevilla, Schalke etc).
Up front is probably the biggest area of debate, but Perez and Gayle have been the main starters in sides that pick up points. I have been critical of both of them many a time this season but if they play, and we pick up points, then they must be doing something right for sure.
If we can have a settled team going into the final games, then it would be a major advantage.
Once again yesterday it was a sell out. The Huddersfield game has sold out already, over 3,000 will be going to Leicester. I don’t think you can underestimate how important it is to be playing in front of a full house that is behind the team. Of course there are moans and groans but what support cheers when a player misses a sitter or loses the ball too easily?
West Ham provided us with the perfect reference point yesterday. Regardless of everyone’s opinions on whether they are justified in their actions, there is no doubt that at West Ham you have a fanbase who are not turning up in numbers (as someone who went to 17 games at the Olympic Stadium last year I know that the ‘56,000’ capacity is a lie, and there are far fewer fans in the stadium than is named officially). A fanbase not getting behind the team, and ultimately having a negative affect on the results. It is the same at Sunderland too.
It is well-known that Newcastle fans will generally support the team through thick and thin, but given the absolute rubbish we have gone through, not only in the past couple of seasons, but in the past 10 years, we haven’t got enough credit from many outlets for the support we have provided.
‘Lesser’ players beginning to step up
‘Lesser players’ perhaps sound demeaning and I don’t intend to do that. However, the likes of Dummett, Lejeune, Diame, Perez and Gayle have all been players that have had a question mark on them from various sections of the fanbase (rightly or wrongly). However, these are guys are beginning to step up now and deliver the performances needed of them. In my opinion, Dummett has always been good enough, at least defensively.
The big ones though are Perez and Gayle, who at the moment, are doing the job that is asked of them within the system. I wrote last week about Gayle “When he doesn’t score, he might as well not be playing” – yesterday he was the opposite of that, although he didn’t score he contributed brilliantly with his assist to Kenedy and linked up the play well.
Still missing big chances?
If there is one definite negative to take away from yesterday it is that we are still missing big chances. It has been our big problem all season, in that we just don’t put our chances away. Luckily for us Southampton gave quite a few chances to put the ball in the back of the net. Gayle missed two great chances and Perez missed a header. Especially away from home, we have to start taking these chances when they come, otherwise they may begin to prove really costly.
I can’t see us getting a load of chances away at Leicester, or Spurs, or Everton, so the need for us to start being that little bit more clinical in front of goal is imperative.
Still eight games to go
It might look now like we are fairly comfortable in 13th but there are still eight games to go and everything can change with the run-in that we have. There are only two remaining games where I would have us as the favorites (home to Huddersfield and WBA), so although it would take a terrible turn of form, it is not guaranteed that we will pick up another six or more points. There is still lots to do.
I have to be honest, I did a predictor last night that saw us win only one of our remaining games, and drawing two. Even after that, we still stay up by four points via my calculations/predictions. So although I think it would take a catastrophic run of results for us to go down from here, it is certainly possible. After all, this is a team who went nine games without a win earlier in the season.
There will be bigger tests than Southampton
Not really a negative, but although it was a great performance and scoreline yesterday, not much has been made of just how bad Southampton were. Did we make them look bad? To an extent, yes. I don’t even think West Brom at home will prove to be as big a pushover as Southampton were yesterday. Just how bad Southampton were was summed up by our second goal, in which Dwight Gayle sprinted past most of the Southampton team as he tried to support Perez. I think yesterday will turn out to be our easiest, most straightforward win all season.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 3 Southampton 0
Newcastle: Kenedy 2, 29, Ritchie 57
Possession was Southampton 63% Newcastle 37%
Total shots were Southampton 6 Newcastle 7
Shots on target were Southampton 2 Newcastle 5
Corners were Southampton 6 Newcastle 2
Referee: Andre Marriner
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey (Merino 83), Kenedy (Atsu 78), Gayle (Joselu 69)
Darlow, Manquillo, Clark, Murphy
Crowd: 52,246 (Southampton 1,600)
(Alan Shearer raves about loan signing and Newcastle’s win but admits to mixed emotions. Read HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the three goal win HERE)
(Mauricio Pellegrino couldn’t believe what he was watching – His reaction HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn