In the past eight games, Newcastle United have suffered four losses which has sent a contingent of the Geordie faithful into a state of doubt as they watch their team slip into second behind Brighton and Hove Albion. The general consensus among those who worry is that manager Rafa Benitez is not bold enough to react to the current slump, as the Spaniard sticks with the current tactical set up which is feared to be too defensive.
Despite the fact that Newcastle's number nine, Dwight Gayle being the current Championship top scorer with 19 goals, there is concerns over the Toon's ability going forward. With the likes of Jack Colback, who is traditionally a more defensive player, making frequent appearances in Jonjo Shelvey's absence, there is a portion of fans worried that the squad has become negative.
However, amidst the panic from some fans, Benitez remains calm as he addresses the media delivering the simple message that the statistics prove otherwise; Newcastle are very capable in front of the net.
Assured in attack
Benitez as always still looked where there is room for improvement as he said: “We must be more ruthless, but it’s difficult to criticise too much when you’re top scorers. We have to create more clear chances for them and if you do that, it will be easier to score goals."
Continuing on from his point, the Manager posed a question regarding the concern over Newcastle's attacking force: “Change the scenario. If you were in the Brighton Press conference, would you be saying you have to score more goals? Or are you happy with your position?"
Benitez explained, “If we have more chances, if we have the top scorer and if we have scored more goals than anyone are you telling me you would like Matt Ritchie or Ayoze Perez or Yoan Gouffran or Mo Diame to score more goals?" He added, “Yes, obviously, but it’s not that we don’t score goals."
Furthering on from his point about scoring goals, the manager went on to say that: “We have Dwight Gayle who is scoring more than anyone, but the others are creating chances. We create more chances, we have more shots than anyone.”
He continued: “We are an attacking team, we are the top scorers in the league. Now people say: ‘Maybe if Gayle doesn’t score, what happens."
Growing more defensive of his team, the manager followed his statement through by adding: “Ritchie can score. Gouffran can score. Diame can score. Gayle can score. The other day we had lots of people who could score. We have to keep improving yes, but we are doing well.”
Finding the balance
Deferring the talk away from attack, Benitez moved proceedings onto the fact that defending well is critical in the Championship: “I want to score as many goals as I can, but at the same time Brighton are at the top of the table? But what’s the main thing they have? They don’t concede goals."
The manager continued: “After they score one more goal than the other team, so they win and draw. But they don’t concede. Normally teams who win titles are conceding less than others."
Switching back to assess his own team, Benitez stated: “For us we are the third team in terms of conceding and we are the top scorers. We have the right balance but what we have to do is draw more games that we have lost, or even win them."
Concluding on a more summarising note, Benitez went through the results in the league so far, looking at where there could be improvement: "We have drawn just one game. That is not normal. We have lost seven games, when we could win maybe three, or draw four, five or six.”
His team will have a chance to right the recent wrongs on Saturday as they travel away to Brentford for a league clash, where they look to bridge the gap between their current league position and the top spot that they so desire.