Despite suffering a 0-2 defeat at the London Stadium on Saturday evening, Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez can be proud of the performance his team delivered against West Ham United.
Poor defending in the first-half led to Declan Rice opening the scoring from a corner as early as the seventh minute before a reckless challenge by centre-back Florian Lejeune on Javier Hernandez in the box gave Mark Noble the opportunity to score from the spot, which the Hammers captain calmly converted.
But, despite the poor decision making at critical times of the game costing the Magpies a possible result, Benitez’s men showed a lot of determination to try and get on the score-sheet with their buildup play, in particular, looking good for the whole match.
Accuracy and clear-cut chances ultimately prevented them from finding the back of the net, but it is clear the team is playing with a lot of confidence and freedom these days.
New-signing Miguel Almiron and Sean Longstaff were brilliant in the midfield and dictated play with relative ease.
It was also encouraging, from a Newcastle United perspective, to see how well the likes of Matt Ritchie and Javier Manquillo pressed up the pitch whenever the team went on the attack.
It gave Newcastle extra numbers going forward and caused West Ham a few nervy moments.
Newcastle also didn’t hesitate to get crosses into the box for Salomon Rondon to pounce on.
The team’s decision making was quick and forced the West Ham defenders to think on their feet and deliver a few last moment blocks to keep Newcastle out.
That is ultimately what has been the most impressive from this Newcastle outfit in recent weeks, to play according to their game plan and execute tactics as well as possible.
After a worrying start to their season, the north east club is currently 14th in the Premier League and has finally managed to get some consistency together.
If they continue to play with such a high level of energy and confidence then Benitez and his team could finish even higher up the table come the end of the season.