Opinion: Benitez's tactics are failing Newcastle United
Going into the season, Rafa Benitez was one of the most beloved coaches in the Premier League. Newcastle fans were well aware of how he kept the club up last season with a largely Championship side. Mike Ashley's refusal to back his manager with funds in the transfer window meant Benitez had to make do with largely the same squad plus a few additions.
The failure to strengthen is already evident in the team's play. They remain winless after 8 games with just two points gained. While Benitez has gotten a free pass so far, this state of affairs cannot continue for long. The Magpies were abysmal against Leicester City last weekend. The defending was shoddy, the midfield pedestrian and the attack toothless.
Against a brittle Manchester United that was there for the taking, the team took a 2-0 lead at halftime. However, the Magpies contrived to play like a spineless bunch in the second half and lose 3-2.
They already have the look of a side destined for the drop. Famed for his defensive nous, Benitez's team have been shipping in lots of silly goals. His safety-first approach was understood when it was against the Premier League's giants like Manchester City. However, his team has failed to raise its games against all levels of opposition, including basement-dwelling teams like Cardiff City.
A tally of two draws and no wins in eight league games tells eloquently how sub-par Newcastle has been. Benitez's tactics are clearly not getting the job done. The blame on owner Ashley and his ham-fisted approach is justified, but Benitez's tactics/personnel are not working.
Change is needed and until January, no transfer business can take place. A change of formation to a 3-man defence would be a good start. This may help the team get up the pitch quicker, as Matt Ritchie is being under-used as a left-back. Ritchie and DeAndre Yedlin would be able to bomb forward and use their considerable pace for good effect.
The Spanish manager needs to work on getting the best out of his rather limited squad. The goodwill he has enjoyed from the fans is not infinite, changes will have to be made and soon.