After Sunday’s defeat at Huddersfield, Newcastle United began the season with two losses from two games.
It has no doubt been a poor start, with fans and associates of the Magpies expecting better.
However, since the season began, and especially after the Huddersfield match, pundits and the media alike have not stopped short of slating the Magpies.
That Ashley interview
This began on the opening weekend of the season, whereby Sky Sports conducted an interview with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, which was aired before the game against Tottenham Hotspur.
Ashley had no reassuring messages for the Toon Army and ultimately had nothing positive to say regarding issues at the club.
Instead he declared that he did not have enough money to compete with the Premier League’s elite and that he had not given manager Rafa Benitez enough money to spend, which was obvious enough considering the little amount spent by the club on transfers.
Ashley also criticised his tenure and previous decisions at United’s helm, which again can be deemed pointless. The whole interview had a sense of negativity around it and was not ideal for Newcastle fans at the start of a season they should have been excited for.
Pundits put the Toon on blast
Newcastle lost their first game of the season against 2-0, with Tottenham capitalising on Jonjo Shelvey’s ill-considered stamp, resulting in a sending off. This, in turn, affected United’s next game, which was a 1-0 loss at Huddersfield in which Newcastle looked devoid of any creativity.
This loss proved to be the catalyst for pundits to state their opinions.
Sky pundit Jamie Carragher spoke shortly after the loss and said that United “look like a Championship team”, while he also talked about the ‘expectations’ of the fans; a stereotypical view which is wide off the mark and which the Geordies have been accustomed to.
Joey Barton and Graeme Souness also slammed the Magpies, with Barton singling out players such as Dwight Gayle as not being reliable enough in the Premier League, while also stating that Rafa Benitez should stop complaining and focus on his squad; adding to the unrest amongst Toon fans.
Benitez himself spoke put earlier in the window and stated he “was not happy” at the way the market has panned out for the club but he remained “committed”. In terms of his unhappiness, it was more about the inflated prices quoted for targets and missing out on others, more than anything.
The difference in the outbursts of Rafa and the pundits is that Rafa is simply speaking the truth and being explicit, whereas those on the media are arguably judging too early and have created turmoil off the pitch at Newcastle United, while it seems that the feel-good factor of winning promotion back to the Premier League has been wiped out.
There are four other clubs who have also lost their opening two matches: Bournemouth, Brighton, Crystal Palace and West Ham, while the spotlight is still on the Magpies.
Brighton, who are in the same boat as Newcastle, coming up from the Championship have received next to no criticism, while Bournemouth and West Ham have also passed under the radar, despite spending a significant amount on transfers.
Not all doom and gloom
In reality, it is not all doom and gloom on Tyneside.
Despite losing both matches so far, United defended reasonably well and kept both Tottenham and Huddersfield quiet until lapses of concentration.
Although many will feel that Newcastle should have attacked Huddersfield more, Rafa Benitez is a tactician and used the same tactics that were deployed in last season’s win at the John Smith’s Stadium; however to no avail.
Furthermore, the Magpies’ squad is not yet complete.
Rafa has spoke this week and stated that players need to be moved out before coming in, as the squad is too big. This has also been a factor in the slow transfer activity so far.
Team not yet fully assembled, so no need for panic
Fringe players such as Achraf Lazaar, Grant Hanley and Emmanuel Riviere have all been told to find new clubs and United had hoped to move them on by now in order to create more funds.
In terms of the current squad, Newcastle have their most creative player suspended in Jonjo Shelvey, while they are also playing with a makeshift back four, with three of the first-choice defenders out injured, so it is no surprise that they haven’t performed as well as had hoped.
Once everyone is fit and Rafa has assembled his squad, there will be a clearer indication of where United will stand.
Toon fans will hope that the fringe players will be shipped out and more quality additions come in, which will allow Newcastle to slowly climb up the table and enjoy the season which fans were excited for after winning the Championship.
It is still early in the season and no time to panic yet.
Written by Dawud Arshad
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