Rafa Benitez has been explaining his thought process.

A thought process that led to a very surprising team selection against Arsenal, one that left many/most Newcastle fans deflated.

As it happened, Newcastle did relatively well in the first half against a poor Arsenal side, only missing the quality, creativity and killer instinct in the final third.

When it came to decisions, Rafa Benitez admits he faced choices at right back, left wing, centre midfield, right wing and up front.

His thinking becoming even more complicated when Jamaal Lascelles turned his ankle in the warm-up. Though the captain did start, only to go off at half-time having struggled with his mobility.

At right wing it was an easy decision, with the manager saying Ritchie was back to full fitness.

However, neither Kenedy or Shelvey were 100%, leading to the selection of Murphy and Hayden.

As for Rondon and Yedlin, with both not arriving back until Friday from international duty, Rafa didn’t want to risk playing both.

Joselu deputising for Rondon but Yedlin in the team.

You never know what would have happened with a different selection, could Newcastle have just as successfully snuffed out Arsenal in the first half AND created/scored if they’d had the likes of Shelvey, Rondon and Kenedy on the pitch?

I’m guessing those most disappointed with the team selection would probably say that when deciding is team selection, forgetting about fitness/international issues, Rafa Benitez tends to go for the ‘safer’ and more defensive options.

Truth is, that no doubt Rafa is/was no doubt already thinking about the Palace and Leicester matches up next, thinking a fully fit and prepared Kenedy, Shelvey, Rondon can help Newcastle have a real good go at picking up maybe four points, if everything works out and the manager can get his better players onto the pitch.

Rafa Benitez:

“We had five decisions to make.

“Ritchie was fine.

“Jonjo was not fully fit…Kenedy was not fully fit either.

“Rondon and Yedlin came back late and so we didn’t want to take the risk with both of them.

“Joselu was doing well in the week so we thought it would be fine.

“Hayden, coming back into the team with energy and desire, we thought he would be fine.

“The fans could see at the beginning the fixtures and (them) saying hopefully we can win against Cardiff (because of the other early fixtures).

“We drew against Cardiff and we could have won, but to lose against the top sides and to lose by this (2-1) margin is something that everybody could maybe have expected, but still we aren’t happy (with the defeats)

“It is something we have to manage, to be sure that we keep the confidence, to keep working like we did in the first half.

“For us it is to be sure that you can be there, that you can create chances, and then if you miss the final pass in the last third, fine, but at least you were there.

“This is the main thing for me and the positive for the future, to manage the games and approach the games like we did in the first half today.

“The second half, asI have said so many times before…as soon as you make any mistakes against the top sides, they can kill you on the counter-attack.”

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

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)

  • fistsofsteel2

    Can’t see us getting anything from the next four fixtures with this useless chump of a manager in charge. We might nick a 1pt or 2 from the three fixtures after that,
    Rafa out.

  • Paul Patterson

    I can’t argue with the thought process, but to not bring Rondon/Shelvey/Kenedy on when the second goal went in, rendered the last 30 minutes a – seeing the game out to prevent further damage and get to the next game style, non-event.

  • Mrkgw

    Bizarre. Joselu for heavens sake. And to be fair Rafa, you have barely given Rondon a sniff since his arrival so thoughts of fatigue should never even enter the equation. Days of grey, dim and grim football are ahead of us. Awful.

    • Jezza

      Just a shame that Rafa hasn’t got any better strikers than Joselu or Rondon to call on. Never mind at least we spent £90 million on a failing high street department shop and how many other clubs can say that.

      • Mrkgw

        Agree Jezza. But, fed up with our club. Alas, it’s not quite as easy as upping sticks and following an alternative. But, I’m genuinely no longer convinced by Rafa. I was a big supporter of his originally but I’ve seen enough now to suggest that he was run out of ideas albeit, his options are limited by numbers.

        • Colin Brumwell

          Blyth or South Shields

          • Mrkgw

            You can bet that following either comes with fewer stresses!

        • Jezza

          Rafa may well have run out of ideas but what else would you expect with the players at his disposal? It’s not numbers that are severely limiting his options, it’s a glaring lack of quality caused entirely by a glaring lack of transfer funds.

          • Mrkgw

            Agreed. But, leaving what little ‘qualiity’ he has on the bench doesn’t help his cause. This happens time and time again. Emmotive topic daring to criticise Rafa I realise, and I run risk of being wrongly labelled ‘troll’ in doing so. However, Rafa isn’t immune to such (criticism) and many, would have been sent packing for the recent run of results. Yes, his options are very limited but, I genuinely don’t think that he helps himself at times.

          • Jezza

            You’re not a troll for questioning Rafa. I agree he doesn’t always get it right but who can blame him after the way Ashley has shafted him in every single transfer window since he came to the club.? Rafa is trying to do his job in virtually impossible circumstances. I genuinely can’t think of a single manager out there who would realistically come to our club and who would be able to get better results with our current playing squad.

          • Mrkgw

            Cheers Jezza. As for who would come to our club, Wenger?

          • Billmag

            That has to be tongue in cheek or do you really think we can attract any other decent manager, I read your frustrations with Rafa above but you tell me if he brought Rondon and Shelvey on and they both broke down where would that leave us, baring in mind we have two winnable games coming up.

          • Mrkgw

            Get your point but, we really do need some consistency and momentum as we are desperate (as we all know) for some points on the board. In fairness, Rafa has never had a settled side, preferring to rotate things. Last season it worked but now, wih this paper thin squad, morale is low. Uncertainty with the ownership and Rafa in the last year of his contract doesn’t help.

          • Jezza

            A man of integrity like Wenger working for Ashley? I just can’t see it.

          • Mrkgw

            Agreed. But, there was a time, long, long ago when there was thought that we should follow the Arsenal model. The whole dynamic has however. changed massively in the time since.

          • Ashley-out

            no chance

          • fistsofsteel2

            Who got rid of Mitro – currently joint top scorer in the league?
            Rafa – the belligerent bumbling idiot.

      • fistsofsteel2

        I know. What an irresponsible use of money to save thousands of people’s jobs.
        We could have spent it on one pampered egotistical football superstar and paid them £200k per week – but like you say we’ve wasted it on saving the jobs of plebs. I understand your righteous frustration.

        • Paul Patterson

          Other peoples jobs isn’t my concern. Where the clubs revenues go- IS!

        • Carverlier football

          Sorry, hadn’t realised we were now a charitable organisation… So will we be pumping all club revenue into ensuring the employment of other business’ retail staff? Will our new-found altruism extend to entirely unconnected organisations that don’t benefit Ashley? As it goes I don’t believe you can rationally connect the NUFC surplus with HoF, it doesn’t work like that – it was just galling timing – but to suggest that a football club should donate a massive share of it’s revenue to save entirely unconnected jobs is just ludicrous

      • Benji

        he could have had Mitro. rafa’s fault alone that he doesn’t.

        • Billmag

          After every defeat are we going to get he should have kept Mitro thing, FFS he’s gone move on.

          • fistsofsteel2

            ….but the point is people on here won’t have a word said against the mighty Rafa, and won’t concede he was very very much in the wrong over the Mitro situation.

          • Ruel Intentions

            Mitro’s rubbish.

            Let’s all rewrite him as the new Sir Les and forget that all he ever did was miss chances and get himself suspended.

          • Billmag

            The lad said himself he couldn’t fit into the system Rafa uses.

      • Ram Kishore

        Don’t make up things that aren’t lol.

        • Jezza

          I genuinely believe that £90 million department shop money came from NUFC funds and so do plenty other people including Alan Shearer.

          • Ram Kishore

            Come on Jezza, yes the club didn’t do much to improve the team.. Money from our club can’t be taken and used like that…
            U know that.. Just to blame Ashely why do u have to lie to yourself..
            Shearer was only questioning the timing by Ashley of spending the money to by that retail store.
            U got a lot more in your palette to criticise Ashley.. why do u have to make something up.. yes the timing is crazy when he spent that sum to by HOF but insisting that all the club’s money was taken seems lazy.
            It’s not personal your are just making a mockery of yourself by telling it .. you know it can’t be possible to be taken out just like that.

          • SuperDesHamilton

            Jezza thinks he’s mr Newcastle and his & only his opinion counts. He’s a grade A w#####

    • Ba ba.

      In Joselu defence he worked hard and was totally isolated. . At one point in the second half he was dropping back into midfield to get a sniff of the ball .. Rubbish team selection and tactics and I’m a rafa fan.

    • fistsofsteel2

      I think Joselu only gets played because he’s just about our highest paid player – £50k per week; or maybe he’s got something on Rafa.

      • Mrkgw

        50k per week?! That makes it even worse. Who was responsible for that decision I wonder? What a disgrace.

      • Superdooperhooper

        Pure speculation. I doubt anyone apart from shelvey is on that kind of money. Joselu and rafa aren’t the biggest problem at nufc . It’s a obese greedy spiteful owner who hates the fans since we turned on him over the keegan wise debacle

    • Billmag

      When everything goes wrong let’s blame Joselu.

  • Ba ba.

    It’s a poor arsenal this year they were there for the taking yesterday . Rondom and sheveley should of started simply as that.

  • Ba ba.

    This travelling lark on a plane… I’m not a expert but I’m sure they will fly 1st class with a bed…. Not exactly hard work sleeping on a plane ff s. Rondom should of started

  • 5floorshigh

    So Rafa states first team players ‘not fully fit’, so he puts them on the bench……fair enough !……we go 1-0 then 2-0 down and still Shelvey and Rondon are left on the bench. Would love to know Rafa’s thinking regarding at what point, if his game plan was not working do you get them on the pitch.

    • Paul Patterson

      Not much point in chasing a game 0-2 down against a top 6 side ..

    • Billmag

      He’s thinking the next two games,what if he brought Shelvey on and he broke down you would be first on here saying Rafa isn’t doing his job.

      • 5floorshigh

        so why put him on the bench ?

        • Billmag

          Who else can he put on the bench we are exactly chocolate full of midfielder’s.

          • Toontaff


          • Billmag

            Wow may aswell have Jonjo on the bench with one leg.

  • JohnnyH

    Ashley to blame for the lack of depth in the squad, no one else.

    What other credible coach would come here now, the $hit we’re in?

    You’re looking at the Likes of Mark Hughes, and all the others like him on the manager-go-round. If Rafa goes.

    Then we’re really [email protected]

    • Jezza

      The situation Ashley has created at our club is so bad that even the likes of Mark Hughes wouldn’t touch us now. You’re looking at the return of Pardew when Rafa goes.

      • HarryHype59

        Fat Sham!

    • CKO

      You can’t blame Ashley for the Cardiff and Forest results, Cardiff’s starting eleven cost €21.44m (plus Zohore) and Benitez couldn’t beat them with an eleven that cost €55.50m, Forest’s starting eleven cost €18.73m (plus Lolley) and Benitez couldn’t beat them with an eleven that cost €45.40m.

      • Billmag

        Rehashed 👎

      • Ruel Intentions

        Boring, irrelevant re-hash. How long ago were those games? Let it go.

        • CKO

          They happened a few weeks ago, after the transfer window had closed which the was the complaint the initial comment was making. Why haven’t you messaged them telling them to let the lack of squad depth complaint go?

      • gordon

        So by your reasoning each of the other 18 teams in the league should comfortably beat us because of their superior spend – great situation your god-emperor has left us in eh?

        • CKO

          You don’t understand my reasoning. I’m not talking about spend in a specific window, I’m talking about the cost of the team. Newcastle, with our £6m a year manager, should be expecting to beat a team(s) that cost less than half of what ours did.

          Reading is tough for some people.

  • 1957

    It’s the standard response when he is questioned over his selection of the Hoss, to say he was doing well during the week. All you can say is the superstar Spanish donkey always fails to produce his scintillating midweek form on matchdays…. surely Benitez, with all his experience realises that by now.

    Rondon should have started, tired or not he was a better option for a goal

    • Billmag

      There you go again let’s put the Hosses heed in the noose, good grief he wasn’t the only one in the team that was poor, if it’s a bad performance blame the hoss he’s an easy target, and what makes you think putting Rondon in the team would make a difference baring in mind our midfield created nothing.

      • Ashley-out

        they were all poor but Hoss & a few others a poor every week

  • mentalman

    If we had so many problem areas why not try different tactics.

    The team needs to be adaptable and so does the manager, unfortunately at this moment in time neither is

    • Billmag

      Like what other tactics would you like to see, Fulham have been praised for there attacking nouse and got stuffed yesterday and reading the reports where never at the races, it makes no difference what tactics Rafa tries we just haven’t got the player’s, first 11 might be ok but the back up is poor.