In a must win match, Newcastle handed Brighton there first away win in a very long time and looked absolutely dire throughout. An early goal by Brighton forced Newcastle to throw their usual counter-attacking strategy out the window. Brighton sat deep and Newcastle struggled to come up with an alternative plan. Eventually, they resorted to heaving the ball into the box with the hope that Muto and Perez would rise above Brighton’s two 6 foot defenders and find the net.
Let’s take a closer look at how each individual player performed today.
Dubravka: There was nothing he could do about the goal scored by Brighton, but he was not on his game today. The Slovakian keeper looked incredibly nervy at times and did not do a good job distributing the ball. 5
Yedlin: The young full back had a pretty quiet game on the right side of the pitch. While he didn’t do much wrong in defense, his offensive contributions were a bit lackluster. 5.5
Lascelles: Our captain needs to do much better. In defense, he made some vital blocks and clearances but also made some careless mistakes that Brighton should have capitalized on. Additionally, Lascelles looked downright uncomfortable with the ball at his feet and failed to connect on many of his passes. 4.5
Fernandez: Aside from getting turned inside out in the dying minutes of the match, Fernandez put in a commanding performance at the heart of the defense. He was impeccable with his tackling and passing. When Newcastle needed to move the ball down the pitch, Fernandez showed great willingness through a few lung-busting runs and clever forward passing. 7
Dummett: As usual, the left-back was solid in defense but looked incredibly ordinary going forward. He offered little attacking threat down the left wing and even failed to complete obvious overlapping runs. 5.0
Ritchie: One of the few players that showed passion and desire going forward. He did well to try and recover the ball when Newcastle was out of possession. His crossing was slightly disappointing, but that’s expected given the daunting task. Finding Muto and Perez in the box with two 6 foot defenders covering is not at all easy. 6.5
Shelvey: Jonjo is another player who tried his best going forward. His passing was on par for much of the game. Newcastle relied heavily on him for creativity in attack and looked sharpest with Shelvey on the ball. 6.5
Diame: Once considered a revelation, the Senegalese midfielder has been incredibly poor this season, and today was no different. While he remains solid in defense, he offers very little going forward and continues to struggles with passes that are farther than five yards in distance. 4.0
Kenedy: The on-loan winger was good in attack and looked most likely to score out of the bunch. He looks to have bounced back after a rough stretch earlier this season. 6.5
Ayoze: The fragile Spaniard was by far the worst player on the pitch today. Every time he got on the ball, the opposition would end up with possession a few seconds later. He struggled to make space for himself throughout the game, and on the rare occasion that he did find time on the ball, he was wasteful. The makeshift Number 10 failed to convert Newcastle’s best chance on the day as he fired almost directly at the keeper. 3.0
Muto: Our most expensive acquisition of the summer transfer window did little to change the fate of the match. As a short and pacy striker, he was set up to fail by the tactics that Rafa ultimately deployed. He was never going to rise up against the likes of Lewis Dunk and win aerial duels in and around the box. He was left chasing lost causes for much of the game. 5.0
Joselu: He didn’t have the intended impact after coming on. He did well to knock down some long balls to his teammates and was never presented with a real opportunity at goal. His most threatening strike at the goal ended up at the corner flag instead of near the 6 yard box of the keeper. 4.0
Rafa Benitez: After going a goal behind, Brighton sat back and afforded Newcastle time on the ball. Rafa failed to come up with a viable alternative approach to his usual counter-attacking football. After finally resorting to an aerial approach, he waited about 70 minutes before bringing on Newcastle’s only aerial threat: Joselu. Additionally, it took him a long time to realize that Kenedy, who is a much better dribbler than Ritchie, would be better suited to the right wing where he would be able to cut-in. While Rafa should be held accountable for taking a while to complete these last two tasks, he shouldn’t shoulder too much of the blame for failing to adjust Newcastle’s approach. The fact of the matter is that Newcastle have very few legitimate threats in attack (Kenedy and Shelvey), that is, our attacking options are so bad that we have no choice but to be upset with Rafa for not bringing on Joselu. It’s almost impossible to come up with a possession-heavy, attacking approach (that Brighton forced Newcastle to employ) with the players that are at Rafa’s disposal. Lack of backing in the transfer window has ensured that players not up to par with the Premier League level, such as Ayoze Perez, Mohamed Diame, and Paul Dummett, not only start but are able to do so without any real competition. 5.0