November was not a kind month to Newcastle United. With four fixtures, three of which were considered to be winnable games, Newcastle was only able to secure one point. So what exactly happened?
The month started off with a home match against Bournemouth, a match which many Newcastle supporters would believe to be a win, a draw at least. But to Bournemouth’s credit, they took advantage of a lackluster second-half performance by the Magpies and scored in the final minutes of the match to secure all three points. Not a good start.
Next, the Toon would visit Old Trafford; a return that Rafa Benitez probably wasn’t too happy about. But realistically, Newcastle were not expected to keep up with the high-flying Manchester United squad who were getting key injuries back in Pogba, Ibrahimovic, and others. But the Toon were the ones to strike first with a goal from Dwight Gayle... although that did not last for very long as Man U would slot home the next four goals to finish the match. This would be Newcastle’s 3rd straight loss in the Premier League, a first for Rafa Benitez when managing Newcastle.
Then Watford came to St. James’ Park and beat the Toon down, 3-0. Nicky Topping would call this Newcastle’s ‘worst performance of the Benitez era’, as Newcastle had no solution to the Watford side. The run of losses continued for the Magpies as they would drop to 4 points above the relegation zone.
A visit to the Hawthorns would prove to be a difficult 90 minutes where Newcastle really flirted with five straight losses in the Premier League. West Brom would hold a 2-goal lead in the second half to only have the Toon fire back with two of their own, and threatening for a game winner, late. The match would end in a 2-2 draw and would give Newcastle a much needed point away from home. But if Newcastle wants to compete with the best teams in this league, this was a match where three points was needed.
So where did Newcastle go wrong?
One point out of the possible twelve is really not acceptable, especially for a team who might not have funds to improve in the next transfer window. As of today, we sit five points above the relegation zone, in 15th place. So what were some problems?
- The Striker position is where I, and probably many others, would like to start first. This is probably the only place I would challenge Benitez in his work; Why Joselu over Mitrovic? With less than a goal-per-match, a solution needs to be found sooner rather than later.
- A lack of focus before the end of halves was also very apparent. In fact, in each of their four games in the month of November, a goal was scored in injury time. Every game! That lack of focus costed Newcastle of possible points, an unacceptable string of mistakes.
- What’s most worrying is dropping points to teams we should otherwise beat or draw if we want to remain competitive. In the past 6 games, Newcastle would be ranked last in the Premier League with a single point... If we want a new owner, Newcastle must find ways to garner points from teams like Watford, West Brom, and Bournemouth. With our next three matches against Leicester City, Everton, and Arsenal respectively, Rafa Benitez faces a challenge.
Forget the negatives... what were the positives?
Although we were only able to secure one point, Newcastle sits in 15th place, only 5 points away from 9th. Here’s a few positives I believe we can take from November.
- Dwight Gayle has been slotting home goals as of late and thats a good sign. Gayle played 257 out of the possible 360 minutes in November in comparison to the mere 40 minutes he played in October. With the striker position a huge question mark, Gayle’s performance is pretty encouraging.
- Newcastle’s last match in November was a 2-2 draw against West Brom. Newcastle found themselves down 2 goals in the second half, a deficit that seemed to be insurmountable. But the Toon played their best 30 minutes of football to even the score and threaten for a third. A performance that the lads can really build on.
- A healthy Merino is almost the most important thing out of all of this. Merino had been sitting out the majority of the month of November with a back injury. In fact, he only played one full match, against West Brom. Merino is one of our most important pieces going forward.
- And who could forget about Amanda Staveley’s bid for Newcastle? Although nothing is even close to being finalized, the movement has started and Ashley very well may be on his way out.
What do you guys think? Is there anything we can take away from the month of November? Or should we just leave it behind... On to December!