Paul Merson has given his latest prediction for Newcastle United.
The Sky Sports pundit going for a fourth win in a row, with the confidence gained from the winning run a major factor for him.
Up against a West Ham team that haven’t won since September and the Hammers having only one victory on Tyneside since 1998.
For somebody who puts almost zero research into the job he is paid for, Paul Merson is never shy of claiming any credit.
Amused to see him trying to claim some more of that (credit) when it comes to Newcastle’s upturn in fortunes.
Merson says that Newcastle were too negative in earlier matches and because they have ‘had a go’ in these three games, that has made the difference. He makes out as though Rafa Benitez is an idiot for not spotting and acting on this earlier.
The truth of course is that a combination of injuries, signings made too late in the window, and others who were late due to World Cup rest, so they didn’t have a proper pre-season and weren’t fit. Meant it was a tough ask to start with, without having early games against all but Liverpool of the ‘ big six’ to contend with.
Maybe there is an argument that Newcastle could have been more attacking in the games away at relegation rivals Palace and Cardiff, but with a team missing players and others not fully fit, if NUFC had lost those games as well, it could have made a very difficult time, a whole lot worse.
It wasn’t the Watford match where Newcastle started to show a bit more attacking purpose, just like last season Rafa put his team out at Old Trafford to attack from the start, going two up inside eight minutes. Whatever the reasons for the eventual defeat, it certainly wasn’t due to being too negative.
The following game home to Brighton was another that Rafa felt he could attack, Newcastle had 68% possession, 27 shots and 10 corners, the Seagulls scoring with pretty much their only chance.
This winning run of three games has seen Rafa able to put out a better and more attacking team, with Rondon as the focus, against teams that he felt Newcastle could beat.
Before Burnley, Paul Merson showed himself up even more, when blaming Rafa for continuing to pick Joselu over Rondon, until the Watford match.
Only two things wrong with that, Rondon had been out injured, whilst Joselu hasn’t started a game since September, only 18 minutes as a sub before his late appearance at Burnley.
You would love to see Paul Merson go into management, especially when he won’t even put in a few minutes work before he starts giving his ‘expert’ view on PL games for Sky Sports at the minute.
No Newcastle fan wants to see some of the football we saw earlier in the season BUT most of understood, at least to a large extent, why he felt he had no choice with the resources available to him.
Now, just like last season, when he thinks he has a side capable of doing it, Rafa is prepared to put a more attacking emphasis on things, which is shown by the team pressing higher up the pitch and getting more bodies into the box in recent matches.
Paul Merson speaking to Sky Sports:
“Newcastle have three wins in a row, which I didn’t see coming, but I think the penny’s dropped a bit for them.
“I think at the start of the season, they were too negative.
“In the last three games, they’ve had a go.
“They’ve won all three and clawed their way out.
“I thought West Ham had turned the corner, but every now and then they just get a nightmare game.
“Last week they got blown away, but Man City will do that.
“I’ve been surprised where West Ham are, but they’re back in the relegation mix and if they lose at Newcastle it could be back to being a long season again.
“You could see Marko Arnautovic kicking up a stink in January if that happens, and they’re in trouble if that happens.
“He is the club at the moment, their shining light.
“I think Newcastle will edge it because of their confidence.
“Prediction is Newcastle 2 West Ham 1.”