Newcastle United took on Cardiff City today and for the first time in 37 years, Cardiff City managed to earn points against the Toon Army. It was an ugly match and in the end a 0-0 result somehow felt deserved. Here are some takeaways from today’s match.
1) Newcastle plays to their opponents level
Last week, Newcastle looked good against Spurs and many felt like they deserved at least a point. Today, they deserved the result that they got. Going back to last season you’ll see that this is nothing new. Newcastle struggled to get points against Huddersfield and Brighton last season while earning points against the likes of Liverpool and even earning a win against Manchester United. Playing to your opponent’s level means that we should be in for a long and exciting season. It also means that we are in for another stress filled season, in which we will earn points that we should not, and drop points where we should not. Ironically, we should hope that in the coming weeks this trend continues, as we will need to be able to match Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal.
2) Rafa needs to be more flexible
Rafa Benitez does things his way and he’s unlikely to change now. In matches like this one, a little flexibility could not have hurt. Given the opponent and injury to Yedlin, the time was right for a change in formation and tactics, instead we got…well, much of the same. Today was ugly, and I can’t help but think a big reason for that was because Newcastle always seems to make things easy for their easier opponents. Cardiff more or less knew what to expect and when to strike. Playing an extra striker, or going with 3 at the back at times, could be beneficial as it’ll give opponents something more to plan for and keep teams on their toes. Being more flexible would be a plus, and brings me to my next takeaway.
3) Time to implement the new signings
Joselu leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s no secret. Mo Diame has not been on form, and Ciaran Clark may be past his best days. Lucky for us that we recently signed Fabian Schar, Ki Sung Yeung and Solomon Rondon! It is still early in the season but after today’s performance, I think it is definitely time to reap the rewards of these new players. Rondon looked good versus Spurs, and if not for Hayden’s red card he may have been an option today. I think it is time that we see more of him and less of Joselu in a starting role. We have not seen Ki as of yet, but with Diame struggling he is a natural replacement and enough of a veteran to bring real positives to the side. Schar getting a nod over Clark also makes sense and while we’re at it, why not focus on Muto a bit more. Playing Muto and Ayoze right behind Rondon will give the team a more attacking look, and make them more flexible going forward. Going into these next 3 matches, we need something a little bit different and may already have what’s needed on the roster.
4) We may not get a win for over a month
Make no mistake about it, these next 3 matches will be tough. Playing well may not be enough and not getting our first win until late September (or later) is now a very real possibility. Newcastle needs to play more like they did last week versus Spurs and less like they did today. Luckily, 2 of those 3 upcoming matches are home matches, and I have no doubt that Newcastle United are capable of picking up points in that stretch. Will they be able to get a win in that stretch though? If they do, it certainly will be a morale booster going forward regardless of which of these opponents they can find a way to knock off. If they can’t find a win in the next 3, circle September 22nd on your calendars, as the away match to Crystal Palace will very likely have a must win feel to it.
5) Kenedy isn’t perfect
Then again who is? Last season we brought Kenedy in on loan and he dazzled us with what he could do. We managed to get him back in the fold for another year and for us that was great, but early in this season he has had some head scratching moments. Last week versus Spurs he should have collected an amazing pass from Joselu and scored, but his first touch let him down. It happens I guess, but the greatest moment Joselu has ever given us fans was wasted because of it. Today, he was expected to bounce back, and he was ever present…but we are still scratching our heads. In the first half he kicked Victor Camarasa and may have to eventually miss time because of it. It was a boneheaded decision and whatever punishment is handed down because of it is deserved. In the final minutes he also came up short when needed. A 90th minute free kick was wasted, and then with a golden opportunity to redeem himself with a 96th minute penalty, he had his shot saved. The penalty was poorly taken and like Newcastle, he made things easier for his opponent.
The next month or so is going to be very interesting, and testing for us supporters of Newcastle United. We will see what this team is made of in that time and how Rafa is able to adjust to the challenges that are certain to come his way. The season is young and there is a long way to go, but Newcastle need to start making things tough for their opponents, strong and weak.