Newcastle supporters have been drowning their sorrows in recent times after seeing their side slip to a third successive Premier League defeat on Saturday.
Rafa Benitez’s men went into their encounter with Arsenal off the back of losses at the hands of Chelsea and Manchester City, which added to their opening day defeat to Tottenham left the Magpies with just one point, a 0-0 draw at Cardiff City, from their first four games. And they remain without a win this season as goals from Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil set Unai Emery’s Gunners on their way to all three points, as although Ciaran Clark got one back for the hosts late on, it wasn’t enough to deny the North Londoners a third consecutive victory.
Thus, there have been many disappointed and frustrated Newcastle fans up and down the country in recent times, several of whom have taken to Twitter to criticise manager Benitez for his substitutions against the Gunners, what with Jonjo Shelvey and Salomon Rondon left on the bench by the Spaniard.
And while Newcastle fans have on the whole been pretty supportive of the former Chelsea and Real Madrid during his time on Tyneside, they are absolutely spot on to suggest that he got those key decisions badly wrong at St James’ Park on Saturday.
Ultimately, Benitez was bold in his team selection in making four changes to the side that lost at champions City last time out, and the efforts of Joselu in leading from the front as well as those from Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie down the flanks certainly gave the home fans hope in the first half.
Yet as Arsenal grew into the contest, and subsequently took the lead four minutes after the break, the onus was surely on the Newcastle boss to tweak things to give his side more control and a greater threat in the attacking third of the pitch – yet to take Murphy and Ritchie off, arguably their two brightest sparks, seemed a somewhat strange decision.
The midfield duo of Mo Diame and Isaac Hayden really struggled in the second half to suggest that the introduction of Shelvey may have been a shrewder move from Benitez, not just to give greater strength in that department, but also given that the England international is much better on the ball than the aforementioned pair – and against an Arsenal side that have looked vulnerable defensively this term, he could have unpicked the lock.
And Joselu certainly tired as the encounter went on to suggest that bringing Rondon on, another physical presence who can hold the ball up and provide an aerial threat from set plays, could have proved beneficial in helping to bully the tiring Arsenal centre backs – yet Benitez opted for neither.
In fact, his substitutions, one of which somewhat forced following the injury to Jamaal Lascelles, proved to be hugely ineffective with neither Kenedy nor Yoshinori Muto having much of an impact on proceedings – and when that happens, it brings into greater focus those he decided against bringing on.
And against one of the better sides in the division, Newcastle fans would likely have wanted to see two of their team’s better players in Shelvey and Rondon on the pitch on Saturday, especially as the chance was there for them to get something out of the encounter – if, as has been suggested, they were slightly injured or lacking in match sharpness, why have them on the bench in the first place?
Thus, while Magpies fans have generally been very supportive of Benitez, those who have criticised his decision-making regarding his substitutions on Saturday are absolutely right to do so.
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