Saturday finished Newcastle 0 West Ham 3.
Not a bad first half apart from gifting the Hammers the opening goal, the second half most definitely seeing things really go downhill.
The Editor asked me beforehand to write about 3 positives and 3 negatives from the game, so here goes…
We had chances…
While Newcastle fans have every right to be concerned given the team’s toothlessness on Saturday, the silver lining of that particular cloud is that The Magpies at least created a number of chances.
It was only a fantastic last-ditch block from Pablo Zabaleta that prevented Salomón Rondón from levelling the scores just before half-time and he was in the thick of things all afternoon with 7 of the team’s 16 shots falling to the Venezuelan number nine. That both he and Ayoze Perez fluffed their lines when presentable opportunities fell their way was frustrating and irritating but, despite the lack of flair in the side, Rafa’s boys are still managing to create clear-cut chances.
After a slow and utterly underwhelming start to life on Tyneside, Newcastle’s South Korean playmaker looks to have turned a corner and he has recently become a vital cog in the engine room, adeptly filling in for Jonjo Shelvey after his injury against Watford and now keeping his former Swansea team mate out of the side altogether.
Offering Shelvey’s vision, range of passing and composure on the ball, without any of the worry about his temperament, Ki shone again on Saturday and his impressive recent form should ensure that his is one of the first names on the team sheet as we head into the glut of festive fixtures.
Defeat loosens the purse strings?
That Mike Ashley has created a dystopian world where a heavy home defeat can be spun as a positive speaks volumes for his toxicity, but it could well be argued, that West Ham’s victory can only help to strengthen Rafa’s pleas for reinforcements in the January transfer window.
While our poor defensive display will have given Rafa cause for concern, it is at the other end of the pitch where our shortcomings were all too apparent. The chances were there for the taking and had we a clinical finisher in our ranks, then Newcastle could well have made it four wins of the trot – irrespective of how badly we defended. A poacher with an eye for goal is a necessity at this stage, while a genuinely creative ‘number 10’ would really transform our worryingly limited attack.
With Ayoze Perez barely even doing a passable impersonation of a footballer these days, it’s fair to say that the Toon Army’s patience with the Spanish forward is at breaking point. His lack of physicality, weak finishing and poor judgement notwithstanding, Perez did not deserve the derision aimed at him when he was substituted on Saturday afternoon.
While we are well within our rights to make our dissatisfaction known, it’s hard to see what good can come of abusing one of our own. Sure, Ayoze has been on a downward spiral for years now and we are long overdue an upgrade, but for the time-being, and despite his obvious limitations, he’s our best option.
Rafa picks the team, not him, so all he can do is try his best – that his best isn’t good enough is not his fault and shouldn’t be used against him.
Change of shape backfires
With the defence having held tight to pick up nine points in our last three nerve-jangling outings, losing by three clear goals on Saturday was an unwelcome surprise.
Monday’s back five-inspired win at Burnley seemed to offer us an effective new strategy that played to our strengths but Rafa decided, for better or worse, that a flat back four with Manquillo in for Clark was our best bet against The Hammers. Sadly, it didn’t quite work out that way.
With Lascelles now fit again and Clark unlucky to have lost his place, it will be interesting to see who gets the nod at Goodison Park on Wednesday night.
11th minute walk-in muddies the waters
While I’ve long been in favour of a co-ordinated boycott, I never really saw the point of the proposed 11th minute walk-in for the West Ham match. It always seemed ill-thought-out and unnecessary, given that it was scheduled to take place just a week prior to the mass boycott of the Wolves match.
Sadly, the walk-in didn’t capture the imagination of the fans and, unfortunately, gained little traction – with the Match Of The Day cameras failing to even draw attention to it. Wolves come to town next Sunday and I genuinely have no idea what to expect but, sadly, I have a feeling that Saturday’s insipid protests won’t have helped the cause.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 0 West Ham 3
West Ham: Hernandez 11, 63 Anderson 90+3
Possession was West Ham 41% Newcastle 59%
Total shots were West Ham 7 Newcastle 16
Shots on target were West Ham 4 Newcastle 4
Corners were West Ham 3 Newcastle 7
Referee: Paul Tierney
Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Fernandez, Manquillo, Ritchie (Atsu 54), Diame, Ki, Kenedy (Shelvey 70), Rondon, Perez (Joselu 78)
Woodman, Longstaff, Lascelles, Clark
Crowd: 51,853 (West Ham 3,200)
(Damning Alan Shearer verdict HERE)
(Newcastle 0 West Ham 3 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s defeat HERE)
(Has Mike Ashley finally broken the Newcastle fans – Read HERE)
(Rafa Benitez makes clear to Mike Ashley “What they spend, what we spend…you can see that on the pitch” – Read HERE)