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Newcastle United slumped to a 4-1 defeat away to Manchester United in their toughest test this season. Although it is now three consecutive defeats for the Magpies, there is no real cause for concern, which the league standings show.
Newcastle currently sit in a comfortable 11th place, with 14 points; a return that many fans would have taken without hesitation at the start of the season. United are five points clear of the relegation zone and are ahead of the likes of Leicester City, Southampton and Everton, who are all well-established Premier League clubs.
There are plenty of positives to be taken from the season thus far.
Manager Rafa Benitez has made his side well organised and difficult to break down, while forming his backline into a solid defensive unit. Rafa has also instilled a high work ethic into his squad, with every member of the team evidently playing for the badge; a trait which Magpies’ fans have not seen in the recent, pre-Rafa years.
The Magpies boast more of a team effort than one or two key players, however there have been notable individuals who have shone to this point.
Captain Jamaal Lascelles has been influential for the club, forming the basis of a strong spine for Newcastle with his discipline and leadership skills on and off the pitch. Lascelles has had an impact at both ends of the field, scoring two goals so far and helping to keep three clean sheets.
Midfielder Mikel Merino has also been impressive. The summer signing from Borussia Dortmund has added presence, strength and ability to the Magpies midfield and has worked particularly well paired with Jonjo Shelvey. The Spaniard is a box-to-box midfielder, while his work rate and talent complements the vision and ability of Shelvey.
The two mentioned players did not feature in the match against the Red Devils, which did not aid Newcastle’s cause, while the Geordies will wish for the pair to return as soon as possible in time for a testing winter period.
For all Newcastle’s defensive solidity, they have not matched it at the other end of the park, scoring more than one goal in only three matches this season.
The Magpies’ budget options up front suggest that this was always going to be the case, with Rafa Benitez stating after the Manchester United match that the difference in spending between the two clubs was evident, the Red Devils’ record signing Paul Pogba costing roughly more than Newcastle’s entire squad.
As a result of United’s lack of firepower, Rafa has had to adjust his tactics and play to Newcastle’s strength which is organisation and solidity, with the Magpies building from there.
Benitez has done a wonderful job with limited funds and will be desperate to secure finances from the club in order to bolster his squad in the January transfer window, in order to cement Newcastle’s position in the Premier League. If this can be achieved then it will create a platform for Rafa to assemble a squad in his eyes.
Rafa will certainly receive significantly more money should a takeover be completed by the festive period. After reports of a breakthrough last week, the rumours have quietened, with due diligence from the interested parties still in process; a positive sign that nothing has broken down.
Newcastle fans need t remain patient. There are plenty of matches left to play, with a respectable amount of points already in the bag. Benitez highlighted 20 points in the first half of the season as a target, and Newcastle are well underway to achieve that.
In Rafa we trust.
Written by Dawud Arshad
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