From the opening whistle Newcastle did indeed look revitalised under ex-Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez. The side looked solid and compact throughout the match despite Shinji Okazaki’s stunning overhead kick in the 25th minute.
The desire to appease the travelling fans was certainly on display as the Newcastle squad chased down and closed the ball down impeccably throughout the entirety of the match. Although this is a pretty standard expectation of any Premier League football club, this type of passion has not been present at any of Newcastle’s fixtures, suggesting that the team is moving forward in the right direction.
Bodies behind the Ball
A relegation fodder Newcastle side convincingly keeping Leicester City at bay throughout the match is an achievement in itself. The danger men for Newcastle, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez looked to plague the Newcastle defence all game, however neither came close to Rob Elliot’s net.
The defence looks to have patched up the holes that have been present in their last run of fixtures as Jack Colback dealt superbly with Vardy. Daryl Janmaat and Steven Taylor valiantly protected the danger respectively as many times during the match a clearance was always on offer.
Perhaps the most worrying weakness ahead of tonight’s game was the security that would be provided by the Newcastle midfield.
In the past, Newcastle have persisted as a passive side who were always second best. In all fairness, this game presented something unique to the travelling fans who saw their side at times dominate the midfield and could dictate the space available on the flanks.
Jonjo Shelvey has been an irreplaceable asset since joining the club in the January transfer window and his performance today showed no signs of letting off. His vision on the pitch was second to none as he looked to find the attacking formation of Ayoze Perez and Alexsander Mitrovic consistently.
A surprise package to the game was the step up Moussa Sissoko made in the game. A man heavily criticised during the Steve McClaren era who looked like a shadow of his former self has now leapt forward to press the oppositions back line repetitively during the match. Benitez has certainly brought the Newcastle favourite out of his shell as the midfielder looked like a dangerous instrument for Newcastle’s attacks in the game.
As a team in a relegation scrap at the bottom of the league, confidence in front of goal is unlikely and so it proved in this game. Perhaps the characterising moment of Newcastle’s attacking woes was the confusion between Mitrovic and Sissoko who toppled over one another in a favourable position.
Newcastle’s lack of attacking punch will punish them so ahead of the titanic clash against Sunderland looming ever closer, goals will have to be focal point for Benitez and the staff on the training pitch.
Though it was not a perfect performance, Newcastle should feel mightily proud of their performance given their current situation. Controversy surrounded Leicester’s win as Vardy looked to be offside as he played the ball to Okazaki and a hand ball should have been given from Sissoko’s shot outside of the area on Wes Morgan. But regardless, Newcastle were condemned to another defeat and the lack of goal scoring capability is very worrying.
In comparison with the Bournemouth game which epitomised the woes of Newcastle’s season, the trip to the King Power Stadium portrays a new era for the club who, despite losing having satisfied the expectations of the fans as fight, determination and spirit were offered from the entirety of the squad in today’s performance.
Newcastle now face Sunderland at home which will be the make or break of their Premier League survival.