Not time to panic; yet.
The start Newcastle United have been dealt is without doubt very difficult and if results were to go as expected, we would likely be playing catch up before we would have any ‘winnable’ games, thus cranking up the pressure to translate such games into points.
In my mind however, we must put our best foot forward and pick teams with the best chance of winning games, although I could accept containment missions at the like of the Etihad.
We are hindered heavily by lack of squad depth, which means that underperforming players are likely to be picked week on week.
The cases in point here are Perez and Joselu.
The former did have a good finish to last season but his contribution throughout his stay at the club could be described as hot and cold, and although the latter has scored our only goal this season and played a great ball to Kenedy who then fluffed his lines against Spurs, he is generally totally ineffectual.
The summer signings have been characteristically underwhelming, and yes we are only two games in, but they must be thrown in and tested from the start. It would be different if we had proven striking stars starting, but we don’t, and far from it.
Perez seems to be a favourite of Benitez and is without doubt a talented and smart player, even if he is very inconsistent as I have alluded to. I think though he would be more effective later in games when play breaks up a bit and defenders are a bit worn down.
When talking of wearing defenders down, Salomon Rondon is exactly the sort of player who does just that. He has good pace and strength and offers a threat running in behind as well as being able to hold the ball up and act as a target to run off. Even if he isn’t a 20 goal a year man, he is far superior to Joselu. Joselu might fit the target man bill but he is just unbelievably slow in everything he does and any decent defender should be able to handle him with relative ease. Let’s be honest, we all smelt a rat when Stoke agreed to sell him for a paltry fee to a club at the same sort of League position level as them, and we haven’t been proved wrong.
I wrote an article about a year ago, the subject of which was Mitrovic, and for all his faults – his ability to actually be a handful at times. The response was mixed from those who commented, which given the divisive of Mitro wasn’t surprising. Either Rafa doesn’t read The Mag, or he doesn’t think my opinion is worth listening to, as Mitro was completely frozen out and we persisted with Joselu in this role, or the lightweight Dwight Gayle.
We also finished 10th so perhaps I was talking pure nonsense. My point though, was that any sort of competent burly striker could make up for our obvious lack of quality, and while Mitro didn’t get his chance, Rondon can provide that, with more pace and more Premiership experience.
Contradiction here but I actually think it’s Joselu’s prolific uselessness that has Rafa keep him in the side. If we are trying to stay in the game for an hour, and perhaps sneak wins through counter attacks particularly later in games, then is he reasoning that Joselu for 60 containment minutes and Rondon for 30 in which you try to win a game or chase a game is a better option?
I’d just like to see us take the game to some teams, maybe in these ‘winnable’ games. Actually go for it and try to blow a team off the park – it’s not completely impossible. As long as Lascelles is fit I do have some faith in our defence and their systems even if we aren’t laden with stars, and given we spend a lot of time without the ball in most games, I’d back us to see at least some games out defending a lead.
In my mind we absolutely have to pick Rondon as first choice and why not Muto off him. If Muto doesn’t work he doesn’t work, he could be rotated a bit with Perez even, but it’s going to be tough for any Premiership new boy to establish himself if he is only ever given a bit part role.
If we can get a couple of strikers working well together and the same post January box to box (with some goals added) Mo Diame appears, then without a bad injury list we can be an attacking threat to teams and have a decent season.
After a performance like Cardiff there really should be some changes, on top of the enforced Kenedy one, and whatever might happen with Manquillo/Yedlin’s injuries, but I won’t be surprised to see the same names again.
Naturally, without a big change in transfer policy we won’t become anything more than a 10th– 15th team but that’s better than an 18th-20th one. I’d just love to see these signings get a chance to show that they can contribute from the start and if they can, maybe we can foster some competition for places that has been lacking for such a long time and see some improvement in individual performances of longer serving playing staff off the back of that.