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Rafa Benitez might say an acceptable point at Southampton – But that wasn’t an acceptable performance

3 years ago

That was a tough watch for Newcastle fans and it must have been the same for Rafa Benitez.

I didn’t get back from Southampton until early this morning and so only now am I catching up with the aftermath/fall out from the game.

Even with a extra hour in bed it hasn’t helped much but when you are a Newcastle away fan, there aren’t many games where it isn’t a canny journey, so nothing new there – even though Southampton is one of the longer ones.

Funnily enough, despite the distance and the rubbish record (now one win in the last 25 league visits), Southampton is one of my favourite trips.

I like the place and maybe it has something to do with all that extra drinking time on the train…

I have just read a report (see below) where Rafa Benitez was asked after the game whether it was a point won and an acceptable result.

For me, there is no question that an away point is acceptable on pretty much any occasion, even with it being against a quite hopeless Southampton side.

They had only one home league match in 11 months and I did really think we’d win, mad I know.

Southampton had also not scored in over six and a half hours of Premier League football, so my reasoning was (I even put money on it) that we stood every chance of keeping a clean sheet, just like at Palace and Cardiff, but would find a goal from somewhere.

I was proved right up to a point, the home side clueless going forward and it is now more than eight hours of football since they have scored a PL goal.

However, whilst a clean sheet is always a positive and I credit the defence with holding out for that, this was not an acceptable performance.

It might be an acceptable result but my god, this was the absolute pits.

I have seen plenty of bad Newcastle teams but watching that yesterday was shocking. Not the worst ever but I don’t think I have ever seen a match where Newcastle have looked less like scoring a goal. Forget any Rafa match against Manchester City, they were actually far more entertaining than this embarrassment.

This Newcastle team had not a single clue as to how they were going to score a goal.

Players constantly losing possession or passing the ball around aimlessly in their own half. Invariably the ball ending up with Martin Dubravka who booted it back to Southampton or straight out of play.

I see the stats (see below) show six Newcastle shot compared to Southampton’s 22 but that is laughable, not the total for the Saints but NUFC’s half dozen. Rafa’s team literally didn’t have one shot worthy of the name, the stats show none on target but quite literally the closest we came to a proper shot was Yedlin blasting it from over 30 yards out and it ending up in the back of the stand.

If you only go by the basic stats then a goalless draw sounds alright but having watched the whole match, anybody who did so must think we already have one foot in the Championship.

The table shows there aren’t many points separating a handful of clubs at the bottom but I can’t believe any other team comes close to being as limited as Newcastle going forward.

Last weekend, Brighton invited Newcastle to attack for the whole 90 minutes and still we only had a couple of decent chances, which came about by their mistakes if I remember rightly.

Against Southampton we just had nothing to offer at all. To add to our troubles, we only have Lejuene missing now.

So yesterday that was our best attacking formation with the exception of Rondon who came on for the final 25 minutes and still hasn’t touched the ball by now.

Rafa has said he isn’t fit but even if he was/is, I don’t see how he is single-handedly going to transform things.

Muto ran about and lost the ball, Perez was woeful as usual, Kenedy turning backwards and sideways then resorted to blindly flicking the ball which simply set Southampton on the attack, Diame continued his terrible form and like Kenedy tried aimless flicks, Ritchie was at his worst with his weaknesses of having no pace and no trick to beat an opponent all too obvious, whilst Shelvey was totally anonymous – this only a day or two after a big interview where he was insisting he should have been at the World Cup and felt he was as good as anybody else who is around at the minute.

I’m not sure what I want to believe, was yesterday simply the players showing how limited they are as an attacking unit, or am I needing to accept that Rafa’s tactics are stifling the team and they could be much better than this if set free?

Whilst undoubtedly Rafa could be doing something more to encourage attacking play, the grim reality is that as an attacking threat, we are pretty much seeing what we have got and what they’re capable of. The frightening thing is that Rondon excepted, the alternatives are far worse – Ki, Atsu, Murphy, Joselu and the rest are terrible.

The reality is that the three points Newcastle have won this season, have come against poor teams via goalless draws.

I can’t remember more than a few real chances for Newcastle in the Southampton, Cardiff and Palace games combined, whilst in all three the opposition had good chances to deny NUFC any points whatsoever.

A couple of quality signings could have helped carry the rest of the front six but instead you have only Jonjo Shelvey as any kind of quality, with his quality being to pass and pick out teammates, which isn’t a great use when those teammates have such limited movement and little ability.

It won’t stop me travelling away, the trip is always the best part anyway, but I am now accepting that we are doomed unless something dramatic happens in January. I will be at Burnley next month and so on – but it certainly won’t be with ‘hope in our hearts’ looking at this team.

No wonder Mark Hughes looked so gutted yesterday, having failed to beat this Newcastle side he must be really kicking himself.

Rafa Benitez:

“We have to consider where we are, where they (Southampton) are, they need to win and they were pushing, we were trying to defend.

“We couldn’t produce the counter-attacks that we wanted and we have to take the positives today.

“Given we are in a difficult position, it was a positive.

“In terms of workrate and team spirit we can’t complain about that, we have to improve a little bit on the ball.

“You could see both teams were a little bit anxious during the game.

“When teams are pushing you have to look to create a counter attack, we couldn’t always, but it was because we are in a difficult position.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

Southampton 0 Newcastle 0 

Possession was Southampton 50% Newcastle 50%

Total shots were  Southampton 22 Newcastle 6

Shots on target were Southampton 4 Newcastle 0

Corners were  Southampton 7 Newcastle 2

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame (Ki 76), Shelvey, Kenedy, Perez (Rondon 69), Muto (Atsu 80)

Unused Subs:

Darlow, Schar, Joselu, Manquillo

Crowd: 30,736 (NUFC 2,450)

(Sorry but Rafa talking nonsense after this shocker of a match – Read HERE)

(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the Southampton match HERE)

(Match ratings for all Toon players HERE)


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