Saturday finished Newcastle 0 West Brom 1.
Rafa’s team went behind in the 29th minute and never really managed to get on top in this game, as they faced a resolute defence.
Only two efforts on target for both teams, Dwight Gayle seeing and instinctive close range header bringing out a superb reflex save from Ben Foster.
Maybe a game that Newcastle didn’t deserve to lose but certainly not one that they deserved to win.
The Editor asked me beforehand to write about 3 positives and 3 negatives from the game.
Poor result highlights the need to spend
A conversation a group of us had last week before the Everton game was that it might bode well for the summer if we were to go on and storm our way to eighth place, looking like a half-decent premier league side in the meantime.
If we go back to the season in which we finished 5th, Mike Ashley arguably went into the following transfer window with the mindset that this was a half decent squad and therefore didn’t need any investment (aside from Vurnon Anita). That proved to be a mistake which nearly contributed, along with Alan Pardew, to relegation the following season.
A few of us are of the opinion that if we were to finish 8th with a strong end to the season, then that would give Mike Ashley the leverage over Benitez to say “well do you really need to spend so much money?”
What the WBA game highlighted more than anything, and I feel the Spurs and Chelsea games will too, is that this is a squad that needs improved in every single position – bar goalkeeper. There isn’t much of a difference in the poor standard of teams in this league everywhere between Everton and West Brom, so the need to invest this summer is imperative.
As much as we obviously don’t want to lose any football matches, perhaps poor performances like Saturday’s will convince Mike Ashley of the need to invest this summer.
Another sell-out crowd deserves even more credit when you consider that West Brom only brought a tiny amount of fans to SJP. While the football on show didn’t exactly make way for a stellar atmosphere, a full house at SJP is becoming something which is almost being taken for granted at the moment.
So for the club to continue to sell out games so quickly is a testament to the fans and the support they have given a very poor side, and an incredibly mismanaged club, over the past few years.
I think everyone can see the potential at the club now more than ever – with a top manager, potential new owners (although I personally don’t believe any sale is likely) and therefore more and more people are wanting to be a part of it.
Finally, there was no sense that there was to be any ‘goading’ of the away support at the potential of them being relegated – which was admirable.
The result didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
Somewhat of a desperate of a ‘positive’ I admit. Let’s be honest, it is hard to take many positives away when you lose at home to a team that is rock bottom of the league.
Although we can take some heart from the fact that we have performed so well in 2018 that we can get away with terrible results like this at the tail end of the season.
As of the Everton game, it is clear that results on the pitch are not the priority right now at the club. Planning for what is to be a big summer is most important.
Historically, the second season always seems to be hard one for promoted sides, so what our early safety means is that we just have a little bit more time (than we have had in the past) to work on transfer targets, Rafa’s new contract etc.
The firepower up front is really lacking
A reoccurring theme over the season that I don’t think many people can argue with. No.9 and No.10 I expect will be the priority over the summer.
On the day, both Perez and Gayle were very poor. Perez has done really well, chipping in with some big goals and vital assists this season, however, I fear that if we are starting next season with either of them up front then we will be in for a long old campaign near the foot of the table.
‘AndyMac’ wrote in the comments section on Saturday “when teams do a Newcastle on us we’re unable to think of a way around a ten-man defence.” I think this sums up our problems pretty well, especially at home.
I am not one of those fans who gets excited or even talks about Mitrovic. However, something I can’t quite understand is why we brought Slimani in and shipped Mitrovic out.
I completely buy the argument that if he doesn’t fit into the manager’s plans then that’s it. All I have seen though from Slimani so far is a player that is identical to Mitrovic. A big guy, who holds the ball up, dangerous in the air, not much pace etc. The fact Slimani is such a similar player to Mitrovic leaves me confused as to what Rafa’s motives were.
I am sure Rafa doesn’t have any intention of buying Slimani, especially for most of the £30 million that Leicester probably want to get back for him. When a striker does come in, I just hope we don’t spend £20-25 million on a type of player that is identical to one we already have at the club.
Last we will see of Kenedy at SJP… and Slimani
I think that is the last time Kenedy will play for Newcastle at SJP. I can’t see him signing in the summer. He may stay at Chelsea, and if he doesn’t, he is so highly thought of that I expect him to be turning out for a half decent side who are playing European football next season.
Full credit to him and Rafa, I think Kenedy has been an inspirational signing. Kenedy provided that fresh bit of pace and impetus when we needed it most from late January onwards.
It was almost as if he raised the standards in the squad. Again, it perhaps says a lot about the need for investment that a guy who couldn’t get a game at Chelsea earlier in the season came into our squad and looked head and shoulders above most others.
As for Slimani, likely to pick up a three game-ban and well, best of luck to him but I do hope we don’t see him in a Newcastle shirt again.
Could we not have had a go?
This is my biggest nag with Saturday. There is nothing to play for, a full house, against bottom of the league, a side full of confidence, why not go out and try put on an attacking display to win the game?
Obviously this isn’t football manager and I understand that Rafa is never going to change his formula on a regular basis, especially one that has seen us reach safety with plenty of time to spare, but I just felt like he got it wrong.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 0 West Brom 1
West Brom: Phillips 29
Possession was West Brom 36% Newcastle 64%
Total shots were West Brom 9 Newcastle 17
Shots on target were West Brom 2 Newcastle 2
Corners were West Brom 1 Newcastle 5
Referee: David Coote
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett (Murphy 58) Ritchie, Shelvey, Kenedy, Perez (Joselu 78), Gayle (Slimani 65)
Darlow, Manquillo, Clark, Hayden
Crowd: 52,283 (1,000 West Brom approx)
(To read the instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to today’s game – Go HERE)
(Darren Moore thought Newcastle got off lightly – Read it HERE)
(Brutal honesty from Rafa Benitez after the game – Read it HERE)
(Alan Shearer reaction to Newcastle defeat – Read it HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn