Now that this Newcastle United season has finally got underway after some ten games or so into the campaign, and as delighted I am with the win, I feel a big point has been overlooked from the two great wins against Watford and Bournemouth.
We looked particularly good on Saturday and should have had Bournemouth killed off before half-time.
The play was great, we looked dangerous and created quite a few chances, with Ki Sung-yeung impressing in the middle of the park. It was his 40 yard pass that released Kenedy to whip a great cross in for Rondon to finish and Bournemouth couldn’t handle him in the first half. It was also Ki that won and then provided the free-kick for Ayoze Perez to score last week against Watford.
The subtle point I’m hinting at is simple. Whisper it carefully, we’ve looked a better team without Jonjo Shelvey…
Now I like Shelvey, he can pick a pass out and play one as well, but the current Newcastle side with Jonjo Shelvey have become too reliant on his passing. We’ve looked noticeably sharper since he left the field against Watford.
When things aren’t going well, it would be foolish to persist with what blatantly isn’t working. It’s taken until mid November to actually look creative and for that, much credit must go to the introduction of South Korean Ki. It would be nice to see after yet another international break, for him to retain his place in the side, even if as expected Shelvey uses the 16 day break and gets back fit.
I commented this week that it was maybe time for the side to switch to 5-3-2 as we certainly have the players for it, that way we could utilise BOTH players and give Burnley something extra to think about. As limited as Diame is, a trio of Diame, Shelvey and Ki firing things forward to Perez and Rondon would be a good prospect.
We needn’t worry too much about the defence as Martin Dubravka breathes an air of confidence in the back line and I’d be happy with any pairing of Lascelles, Schar and Fernandez defending, or even all three. The trio all offer something different to each other, Lascelles brings an air of calm, Schar neat and tidy on the ball and Fernandez gives no-nonsense defending.
Shuffling the system may also benefit Paul Dummett and DeAndre Yedlin. The American still gets pulled out of position too often, although gets himself forward to aid attacking play. The opposite is true for Dummett who has gone by unnoticed over the last few weeks with some great performances. I genuinely don’t get why he doesn’t get more recognition.
Playing 5-3-2 would have it’s casualties, notably Kenedy and Matt Ritchie, which wouldn’t be ideal. Ritchie will run all day, harass and disrupt opponents and Kenedy is a quality player when he’s on his game, typified by his display yesterday. However, it’s a team game and squad depth and rotation is important. Certainly having those two to call upon from the bench would be pretty good.
Either way, the defensive style that Rafa Benitez has been criticised for from some quarters is proving a winning style at last. It would only be when we start winning games that such a defensive set up would show for what it is. Not getting stuffed against better opposition has kept our goal difference down and now points are starting to back this play up.
When teams like Southampton and Burnley travel to Manchester City and get beat by five goals each, I wonder what planet some people are on when we keep it tight and lose by the odd goal. Rafa is playing the long game and it’s starting to pay dividends now. Our goal difference is far superior to any side in the bottom seven teams, a clear three goals better than Crystal Palace and at the time of writing, a whopping 14 better than Fulham. How’s Mitrovic doing down there these days? Hardly improving their goals against.
He may not have been given sufficient backing in the summer and in a perverse twist, the better we do, the less likely the manager is to get more money from the owner.
Until Ashley buggers off- In Rafa We Trust!