Difficult times for Rafa Benitez.
Newcastle fans knew this would be an incredibly difficult start to the season but even so, the reality of it when it comes around is hard to take.
For the manager, it must be incredibly frustrating.
Three of the four opening games have been against Spurs, Chelsea and Man City, and in all three Rafa Benitez has kept Newcastle in the game, only for no reward at the final whistle.
In all three matches Newcastle went a goal down and then got back level, only to lose by the odd goal in each game.
Against Spurs, Newcastle struck the woodwork twice as they chased a draw or better, the Chelsea match was lost thanks to a dodgy penalty and a cruel own goal with only seven minutes remaining.
Whilst at Man City, Rafa kept United in it until the very end, hoping for that moment of inspiration that could have shattered Pep Guardiola’s one goal advantage.
As people keep saying, if this is what Rafa Benitez can do when Mike Ashley is insisting on a profit made in the transfer market, what could be achieved if Rafa was given even half-decent backing?
Without enough quality in creative and attacking areas due to lack of investment, the Premier League is always going to be a struggle. In the aftermath of Manchester City, Rafa reflected on how well his team did defensively, apart from Lascelles’ mistake for the opener, but also pointed to the big challenge he always has: ‘So really pleased with the performance of our players defensively…but as always, we have to improve the most difficult thing, the transition on the attack.’
You can still find very good defensive players on such a tight budget, the likes of Federico Fernandez and Florian Lejeune for example, but at some stage you have to spend realistic money on those you rely on to create and score goals.
Rondon is a solid loan signing but if only the manager had been backed with cash to also buy a striker and attacking midfielder with the kind of money that clubs such as Bournemouth, Fulham and others are prepared to spend on individuals who can make a difference.
“As soon as you make changes (to try and be more attacking), they (Man City) play between the lines, wingers play with pace, they are quite good in possession. When we play with four and we are attacking at the end and we are pushing, they can run in behind our defenders.
“So really pleased with the performance of our players defensively…but as always, we have to improve the most difficult thing, the transition on the attack when you play against the top sides and they are so quick and keep the ball so well.
“I am really pleased with the effort, mentality and team spirit, we were in the game for a while.
“We gave the ball away for the first and the second was a great goal.
“It is the same situation for us, we have to improve on the ball and we would have more chances against these teams.
“I am pleased to see the support of the fans and the way players were working, that is the main thing, to have everyone together.
“We cannot be watching the table, it is too early.
“The main thing is the performance and we are not too far away, as soon as you start with a couple of victories you can go up. (the table)”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Manchester City 2 Newcastle United 1
Newcastle: Yedlin 30
Man City: Sterling 8, Walker 52
Possession was Man City 78% Newcastle 22%
Total shots were Man City 24 Newcastle 3
Shots on target were Man City 8 Newcastle 2
Corners were Man City 4 Newcastle 0
Referee: Kevin Friend
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Clark (Murphy 81), Dummett, Ki, Diame, Kenedy (Atsu 54), Perez, Rondon (Joselu 73)
Darlow, Sterry, Longstaff, Muto
(To read the instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the Man City match go HERE)
(To read NUFC player match ratings from the game go HERE)
(Jermaine Jenas “I feel sorry for the Newcastle fans when I see what I see there” – Read it HERE)
(Alan Shearer speaking about position Newcastle are in after defeat at Man City – Read HERE)