Newcastle United had Salomon Rondon, Kenedy and Jonjo Shelvey all back in the team at Selhurst Park.
When the side was announced an hour before kick-off, the overwhelming reaction from Newcastle fans was that, at least on paper, this was the best NUFC team.
Florian Lejeune long-term injured of course, whilst the only possible exception from those fit, is that a lot of supporters want to see Yoshinori Muto given a chance.
Salomon Rondon came on as a sub against Spurs and did ok, including almost grabbing Newcastle a point when hitting the bar.
He also came on as a late sub and scored a very good goal against Forest in the League Cup.
The two starts Rondon previously had, were against Chelsea and Man City. Pretty thankless jobs as he had a lone role in a very defensive set-up both times, yet did well holding the ball up, as well as contributing an excellent assist for Yedlin’s goal at the Etihad.
You have to also take in the fact the striker had a rubbish (unnecessarily so) pre-season, as Newcastle took forever to do the loan swap deal with West Brom. No proper pre-season with the Baggies and no pre-season at all with Newcastle.
Last weekend Newcastle fans were all but unanimous in that Rafa should have started against Arsenal despite only getting back to training 24 hours earlier, having played in Panama for Venezuela.
This weekend, many/most Newcastle fans seem to think Salomon Rondon should never have bothered coming back from Panama…
That may be a little harsh but I think it does sum up how the frustrations of the supporters are now reaching down to the players, instead of being exclusively about Mike Ashley.
Which is fair enough up to a point, as the players are very well paid (as compared to your typical fan) and should expect to be under the microscope after every match.
However, for some it has gone way over the top with Rondon after Palace.
Yes he was very poor in the 45 minutes he had yesterday but in truth, where was the service and support?
Often the ball was hit long and he won the headers but when you have no pace around him (Perez!), or any runners from midfield, what’s the point?
As for service into feet, this was rare, and actually when it did happen the loan striker did help in a couple of decent attacking moves.
A bit like last season though, the delivery into the box is almost non-existent, neither Kenedy or Ritchie get to the line and cross/cut it back.
Amusingly (for me), even when Rafa said at half-time that Salomon Rondon had to come off because ‘He was feeling a bit of tightness in his quad, so we needed to take him out’, some critics even claimed that the striker had bottled it chose to come off for no good reason.
So we got Joselu…and ironically, early in the second half Newcastle actually got a few decent crosses in. An excellent Shelvey free-kick was begging to be put in but instead Joselu threw himself to the ground claiming a penalty, whilst on another occasion he tried a semi-overhead kick that went straight to the keeper. These were at least two more chances than had been created for Rondon.
This is the problem though, we haven’t got any great options.
We know Joselu and Perez aren’t good enough, so the answer this season has to be Salomon Rondon and Yoshinori Muto or surely we are going down…?
Unlike idiotic weak managers in the past, Rafa won’t give in to the mob and just throw in players from overseas who aren’t ready. Countless overseas signings in the past have seen their Newcastle careers over before they start, written off after being thrown in unprepared.
Ayoze Perez has been worse than useless this season and I understand fans wondering when we will see Yoshinori Muto – but every credit to Benitez.
He must think Muto has something. A reserve striker for Japan and a half-decent record in the Bundesliga don’t suggest he is a superstar – but he has got something.
However, he needs to be given every chance to start in the best possible way and in the current poisonous atmosphere which is purely down to Mike Ashley and is permeating down, there is every chance that the likes of Yoshinori Muto would be an instant casualty. His confidence wrecked before he’d managed is first 90 minutes in the Premier League.
I thought maybe yesterday Rafa would have given the Japanese international that chance, an away game a far better bet than the expectation of fifty thousand home fans.
So maybe Leicester it will be.
If Muto does start against Leicester on Saturday, he has to be backed beyond that game, no matter how that day/match turns out.
A bit like Kenedy we have to persevere with him, as at the moment there are no credible alternatives.
This season is going to be incredibly tough on and off the pitch, only by sticking with Rafa and his players can there be any chance of any positive outcome for the Newcastle fans.