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Opinion

Key to survival is change of tack for Rafa Benitez with Newcastle fans in home matches

4 months ago
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As Newcastle fans we are all guilty of trying to get the facts to suit our circumstances.

Last season, Newcastle fans were keen to show their support for Rafa Benitez. When the manager got criticism for supposedly overly negative tactics against the better teams, fans pointed to how relatively well NUFC did in terms of the goal difference not being too adversely affected, compared to other relegation threatened clubs.

However, goal difference very rarely decides issues at the end of a season.

The last Premier League campaign was no different and it was picking up 10 points from Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea (at home) that was key to survival and indeed a tenth place finish, rather than only losing by one and two goals against all-conquering Manchester City.

This time around, both media and Newcastle fans have taken it as a positive that the team have lost by only one goal in each of the five games played against ‘big six’ teams.

The theory being that once again goal difference isn’t being too hammered AND it created a belief that if Rafa’s team could lose by ‘only’ one goal against the better teams, then surely that meant against the lesser clubs…

Consecutive home defeats to Leicester and Brighton without Newcastle even scoring a goal, have kind of stamped all over that theory.

It is very difficult for Rafa Benitez because of the ridiculous way Mike Ashley has undermined him but you do have to wonder if just maybe, Newcastle did get things wrong a little bit in the home games so far this season against the ‘better’ teams.

Interesting to look back to the most recent Mike Ashley relegation season of 2015/16, Newcastle United didn’t just pick up points against the ‘big six’, they actually did better against those clubs compared to the other 13.

In 12 games against the top teams, Newcastle won three and picked up five draws, only losing four games. A record of 14 points from a possible 36.

In 26 matches against the lesser 13 clubs in 2015/16, it brought only 23 points from a possible 78, due to six wins, five draws and a massive 15 defeats.

Not being too flippant but at least this season Newcastle are treating all of them the same, losing to pretty much everybody.

Realistically, if you look down through Newcastle’s past, the success and failure of the club has invariably been more down to home and away form. Tending to have a decent to very good record at St James Park and anything picked up on the road a bonus.

Rafa’s team still have 11 home games and 10 aways to come this season against clubs who are seen as amongst the lesser 13 clubs.

Maybe the best chance of getting out of this mess is if Rafa and the players try to harness the St James Park crowd more. Having a real go at any team that they play at home to try and get that synergy between players and fans going, whilst adopting more restrained tactics in away games.

Once again see anything against the better teams as a bonus, home and away, whilst having a very realistic chance of beating all 11 of the lesser clubs at home.

If you look at it as wins at home and draws away against the lesser clubs, that is a realistic 43 points that can definitely be played for with some decent expectation of success.

The football at St James Park isn’t working so far in terms of both results and in engaging the fans.

It was a terrible match and Newcastle were non-existent at Southampton from an attacking point of view, not a single shot on target, but now surely a case of throwing everything at Watford and Bournemouth at St James Park in the next two matches.

When you don’t have the best team you most definitely need to get the Newcastle fans engaged and onboard.

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