Newcastle United’s win over Vitesse signalled the end of their pre-season preparations – the Magpies remaining unbeaten.
But with the Championship season close to its unveiling, how are Newcastle looking based on their encounter with Vitesse?
Ritchie is the perfect replacement for Townsend
Ritchie took a position on the left-wing in which he provided a sweet delivery and the intent to run at his opponent. The ex-Bournemouth man also showcased his goal-scoring prowess after he found himself in the box to see his shot deflect in off the Arnhem defender to open the scoring.
With the loss of Andros Townsend almost devastating the Geordies at least in Ritchie, the Magpies have a like-for-like replacement with the two wingers sharing similar attributes.
Townsend played an instrumental part United’s form under Benitez, and it seems Ritchie will provide the same effect.
Dwight Gayle is certain to start against Fulham and United’s three games after that, due to the suspension of Aleksander Mitrovic, who will miss the first four games following his red card against Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of last season.
And if Gayle can put in the sort of performance that he did against Vitesse, the Magpies will have a real goal-scorer on their books.
The striker was the lone forward in a front three and to the credit of the 5ft 9ins Englishman, he was still able to help and receive chances for and from his team-mates.
The ex-Crystal Palace forward has a natural instinct by finding himself in the right place at the right time, which was showcased when he finished off a clever team move to score United’s second.
And it isn’t just his goal-scoring threat, the 25-year-old found himself chasing down everything that he could.
Hayden – a calm display
Isaac Hayden made 18 appearances for Hull City in the Championship last season and based off his Vitesse performance, he may count himself unlucky that he hadn’t got more.
The 21-year-old reminded me of Cheick Tiote when he first joined Newcastle. Hayden fully understood his job in his defensive midfield position - often breaking down Vitesse attacks with some quality interceptions and strong tackle.
Newcastle fans take well to a player that puts his body on the line for their club. And by the looks of it, Hayden will be no different. His appearances for Hull seem very unflattering for the versatile Englishman. However, the Tigers loan spell has looked to have done Hayden the world of good.
The Magpies need committed players in their long season, and with Hayden in the centre of the park, there is no reason why he wont become a huge player for the promotion hopefuls.
Hanley fitted right in alongside Lascalles
Chancel Mbemba picked up an injury in mid-week, ruling him out of the game against Vitesse. The injury left Benitez no choice but to give Grant Hanley his first start since joining from Blackburn Rovers earlier this month.
Mbemba and Jamaal Lascelles have featured the most regularly to form a defensive partnership under Benitez. However, fears that an injury to either Lascelles or Mbemba could prove privotal were eased.
A part from the two goals conceded from set-pieces, Lascelles and Hanley were mostly solid as Newcastle fans saw two robost players at the heart of their team’s defence.
Lascelles to be named Newcastle captain
When Fabricio Coloccini departed the club last month, fans voted Lascalles as the man to succeed the Argentine. And it looks like Benitez shares the same feelings as the Geordies.
Lascelles has captained every one of United’s five pre-season friendlies which offered a strong inclination in the question as to who will be the next man to lead Newcastle.
And the 22-year-old suggested to fans that he already knows that he will be the man to captain the Magpies by posting on Twitter: “What a great feeling walking out onto St James’ Park wearing the arm band.”
Set-piece defending must be improved
Collectively as a team, Newcastle must tighten up when it comes to defending set-pieces.
Benitez’s men conceded three of their four goals shipped out this pre-season via set pieces. And the worrying thing for fans is that all the goalscorers found themselves un-marked.
However, a positive that can be taken for this is that it is better to make the mistakes in pre-season before comfortably rectifying them when the competitive season gets underway. Benitez will assuredly be testing his players with set-pieces in training this week.