Newcastle United and manager Rafa Benitez endured another tough afternoon at St. James’ Park on Saturday, suffering a 2-1 defeat against Arsenal. It was the Magpies’ fourth loss in their first five games of the Premier League term, but in some ways, it is not as shocking as it might seem on the surface.
Last season’s tenth-place finish was remarkable, and the summer’s transfer window business certainly made repeating that task a difficult one. Toon fans voiced their frustrations with owner Mike Ashley before the Arsenal match, only adding to the tense mood around the North East at the moment.
With Jonjo Shelvey struggling to get back to full fitness, Newcastle’s midfield has not been at its best. New arrival Ki Sung-yeung has failed to make an impact at this point, and the partnership between Mohamed Diame and Isaac Hayden was lacklustre versus the Gunners. United have earned one point thus far, in a 0-0 draw at newly-promoted Cardiff City last month.
The potency of the attack is still the main concern, as Benitez’s squad have not often looked like a team capable of scoring multiple goals in a fixture. The club have netted four goals in their five matches, with summer additions Salomón Rondon and Yoshinori Muto working to integrate themselves into the line-up.
Ayoze Pérez and Joselu were abysmal against Arsenal, combining for one shot throughout the encounter. Joselu has scored two of Newcastle’s four goals, but appears to once again be searching for the consistency up front that was so elusive for him in 2017-18.
So what to make of the current situation on Tyneside? Benitez must find a way to motivate his players, with the club currently in the relegation zone. That motivation can be found in maximum effort and sharp tactics, as a “new season” is on the horizon for Newcastle.
Opportunity for points
The opening five games for Newcastle were not easy by any standards, and many pundits saw four losses as a genuine possibility. Battling Tottenham, Chelsea, title-holders Manchester City and Arsenal made for the odds being stacked against Benitez’s side. Ultimately, the real disappointment lies in the failure of bringing back three points from Wales with a late penalty gaffe at Cardiff.
The Magpies return to action at Crystal Palace next weekend, with matches against Brighton and Southampton approaching as well. It is in these fixtures that points can be gained, as they will likely prove to be the difference between a safe finish and a relegation battle this season.
Newcastle United supporters will not be happy with their club’s start to the 2018-19 campaign. However, trusting Benitez to find crucial results in upcoming matches is a good option.