Saturday finished Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2.
Newcastle United legend Malcolm Macdonald (Supermac) had a column in a national newspaper over the international break, in which he gave an extremely bleak assessment of affairs at the club since the summer.
The pervading mood in the second half on Saturday seemed to back that up.
Another home defeat, albeit to high quality opposition, allied to a summer where the Ashley regime failed to invest properly. The club is standing still, no matter what Ashley’s PR people brief to the media.
A very tough set of opening fixtures has only added to the sense of drift.
Against that backdrop, and it’s little wonder fans are protesting, it is hard to see any real positives from Saturday’s defeat, but the Editor asked me beforehand to write about 3 positives and 3 negatives from the game, so here goes…
The good news is that it’s still early days.
These tough games have come about early and we have them out of the way. The team have time to turn the situation around and climb the table.
Most will have left the ground feeling down, but looking at the bigger picture there is still all to play for, and the challenge now for Rafa is to get clear of this bottom three by Xmas.
Has to be more to come…
There are also a few nailed on first team starters to come back into the team and add a bit of steel.
The focus has to be getting Rondon properly bedded in and playing a run of games.
There has to be more to come from Muto too. We’re pinning hopes on a few to come good and get us up that table.
In Rafa we must also trust.
It was clear that the team selection at the weekend was a gamble and it didn’t work, but let’s not give up on the manager, who has put so much time and devotion into this project.
He remains a brilliant manager and a tactical coach who can turn this around. He’s a huge asset for NUFC and while he’s not beyond some criticism, he has the talent to sort this out.
We have to cling to that hope because an NUFC without Rafa will be in a much worse state. Remember the vacuum when Robson left? It’s a case of be careful what you wish for.
Spark and Creativity
For all we try and stay upbeat there are huge issues.
We lacked a spark and creativity against Arsenal. The centre of midfield was bereft.
A huge downer was the display of Isaac Hayden, who has already told the club he wants to leave. Then there’s Jacob Murphy, a £12m investment who isn’t looking the player we all hoped he’d go on to become.
Body language was another concern on Saturday. The manager not signing a new deal and the lack of investment are two huge open sores.
Players ain’t daft, they can see what is going on. It may have affected morale more than we know. The hope is that this isn’t the case.
And finally, the decision not to select Rondon for this game was very odd.
Joselu may have scored two but I still get the feeling that he isn’t the answer for us.
Rondon was fit but had been away playing for his country. Rafa made the decision and he’ll defend it, but I think not seeing our new Number 9 lead the line against the Gunners was a hammer blow before a ball had been kicked.
The centre forward conundrum at NUFC is something that is yet to be resolved. Is there enough goals in the forwards to get us out of trouble? It’s a big big worry for the run of games leading into Xmas.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2
Newcastle: Clark 90+1
Arsenal: Xhaka 49, Ozil 58
Possession was Arsenal 64% Newcastle 36%
Total shots were Arsenal 12 Newcastle 4
Shots on target were Arsenal 2 Newcastle 2
Corners were Arsenal 4 Newcastle 10
Referee: Lee Probert
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles (Clark 46), Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie (Muto 79), Diame, Hayden, Murphy (Kenedy 69), Perez, Joselu
Darlow, Manquillo, Rondon, Shelvey
Crowd: 52,165 (3,200 Arsenal approx)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2 – Read HERE)
(A third relegation in 10 years on the cards? Read HERE)
(Match ratings of all NUFC players after the defeat – Read HERE)
(Phil Thompson had some strong views on the match – Read HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton