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…

POSITIVES

Early Days

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.

Rafa Benitez

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.

NEGATIVES

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

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.

No Rondon

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

Goals:

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

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles (Clark 46), Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie (Muto 79), Diame, Hayden, Murphy (Kenedy 69), Perez, Joselu

Unused Subs:

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

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  • Michael

    High quality opposition? What game were you watching? That’s the worst Arsenal team I’ve ever seen and I started going in the early 70’s. Frustration is they were/are very beatable but we just haven’t got the quality.

    • Jezza

      Those last six words say absolutely everything and there’s only one person to blame.

      • Ron

        Negative 4 – Mike Ashley
        Negative 5 – Mike Ashley
        Negative 6 – Mike Ashley……..I can go on!

      • Kneebotherm8

        Precisely…..

  • GC

    I think that’s clutching at straws with those 3 positives. Defending Rafa’s selection, he’s on the training pitch with a team of physios around him, we’re not. So he’s acutely aware of who is fit and who isn’t. What Saturday did show was the lack of depth when a few of the more senior players aren’t 100%. Got away with it last season, hope so for this season too.

  • Ron

    I’m fed up with 3 positives and 3 negatives so here are mine
    Positive 1 – it’s early days we won’t get relegated until later in the season
    Positive 2 – there isn’t one
    Positive 3 – In Rafa we trust but his hands are tied so we’re stuffed
    Negative 1 – Mike Ashley
    Negative 2 – Mike Ashley
    Negative 3 – Mike Ashley

  • mentalman

    Another who is quick to condemn young players but never seems to highlight how poor some of the senior players are actually performing

    • Ron

      They were poor we were worse – almost across the board.
      Ashley has left Rafa no choice but to try to polish a turrd.

  • GC

    Strength in depth ? If I have to bad mouth Rafa, he put Shelvey on the bench, even though his thigh is knackered. Give some kids a chance. Gazza was a kid once, as was some no name Beardsley and some Waddle kid