Passionless. Predictable. Pathetic – Those three ‘P’ words could easily sum up this Newcastle United season so far.
A team so devoid of direction and who appear to be hamstrung by a manager so out of touch with the way the modern game is played, that it must be a soul-destroying experience turning out in the famous black and white stripes.
If Jamaal Lascelles has indeed strongly expressed his opinions about how the team is set up, I for one do not blame him in the least. The display at home versus Chelsea was a debacle. Conceding possession away from St James Park against the stronger teams I can just about live with, if it grinds out a result.
Play with caution on home soil by all means, but in front of fifty-odd thousand Geordie fans, it’s just not acceptable to play a nine-man defence for the best part of ninety minutes.
One pundit suggested that magpie supporters would rather lose 5-4 and make a game of it and was pilloried. But you know what? I’d take that over the insipid performance served up last weekend.
Regardless of the dubious penalty and unfortunate own goal which ultimately gave the blues maximum points, Newcastle United were never at the races. Quite frankly it was as bad a performance as I’ve seen for many a moon and while Rafa Benitez may have been happy to take a point from the game in that manner, it would have left me embarrassed.
Last night’s Carabao Cup debacle left me absolutely stunned.
Damage limitation is Rafa Benitez all over, as he treated us to yet another masterclass in how to set up a team to lose against lower opposition. Here was the perfect opportunity go for the win, build up some understanding in the team, and up the confidence levels before taking on Manchester City at the weekend.
A glorious opportunity to also progress in a cup competition wasted. Totally. Utterly. Wasted.
Reading through the Spaniard’s after match quotes I wondered if we’d been watching the same game of football:
‘We didn’t have too many problems in defence.”
Rafa, your team just lost 3-1 due to such bad defending and it could well have been more before the inevitable end-of-game collapse.
‘I’m really pleased with the players that were on the pitch because they were trying their best.’
Really? I mean REALLY? I’d be furious with a set of players that were second-best to virtually every ball and every challenge, couldn’t string more than a couple of passes together without losing possession and wasted every dead ball opportunity they had.
‘I’m not concerned by how we played.’
There’s an awful lot of Newcastle supporters that are, Mr Benitez. I’d certainly be concerned with the lacklustre performance of ‘one trick pony’ Kenedy for example, who just falls to pieces when that one trick doesn’t come off. He turned in another such display and rubbed salt into the wound by giving away the ball for Forest’s third goal.
Incidentally, whoever said the Brazilian could play at left back needs a trip to Specsavers. Surely the manager has also seen enough of Ciaran Clark – a decent centre-half on his day – to know that he’s way out of his depth in Paul Dummet’s berth too. Playing the two together was a disaster waiting to happen and one that Forest exploited to maximum effect.
Getting back to Benitez’ post-game comments – it would be true to say that had Pardew, Carver or McClaren spouted such complete hogwash excuses there’d have been an immediate reaction from supporters ridiculing these quite ludicrous statements and calling for their heads to roll. So why therefore is Benitez seemingly immune from such reaction?
Benitez knows how to play the blame game very well and has made all of his usual pre-season excuses. Any blame for both the team’s performances and its final league position will be planted firmly in the direction of ‘ penny-pinching’ owner Mike Ashley’s, particularly in the event of relegation.
Should United sustain Premier League safety once more, then the plaudits for doing so will go the way of a manager who despite ‘chronic underfunding and the sub-standard players at his disposal’ still pulled it all together.
Never mind the uninspiring, negative football served up to fans week after week, players undermined by constant reminders from a manager who tells the press that they are all he has to work with, come the end of the season Rafa Benitez can happily walk out regardless of the outcome with both scenarios covered.
Meanwhile, the followers of the Cult of Benitez will continue to herald their departing leader as a tactical genius.
In Rafa we trust…?