They say that nothing lasts forever, and every party will come to an end. Newcastle United’s Premier League winning streak ended at three matches on Saturday, as West Ham ran out to a comfortable 3-0 triumph. It was a poor overall display for the Magpies, one of their worst under manager Rafa Benitez. What stood out for many were the missed opportunities in front of goal for the home side, and they became more pronounced for different reasons.
The line-up brought some concerns for the fans, not the least of which was Javier Manquillo starting at left-back in place of the injured Paul Dummett. Ironically, while he was certainly not perfect, the blame for allowing three goals was not his alone. Miscommunications amongst the back-line were witnessed often, particularly on Javier Hernández’s opening strike.
“Chicharito” carefully worked his way through the defence, putting away Robert Snodgrass’ cross with ease. This was Newcastle’s largest margin of defeat this season, as giving up three goals is definitely an odd sight. The only thing worse was the display at the other end of the pitch, and this squad simply can’t let good chances slip away.
Ayoze’s tough day at the office
Salomón Rondón and Ayoze Pérez started up front, though it was an afternoon that they may prefer to forget. Pérez had several scoring opportunities fall to him, only for a poor touch or a disappointing finishing to follow.
When he was eventually subbed off for Joselu late in the game, home supporters voiced their own frustrations at his performance. Did he deserve a cascade of boos while exiting the pitch? Absolutely not, but those feelings are somewhat understandable considering the product. Even as the club's leading goalscorer last season, Pérez cannot be wasteful.
Benitez’s team look to limit the opposition’s attack and keep a result within reach. That approach is a part of what brought three consecutive victories recently, all one-goal wins. The back-line and two holding midfielders look to close down space and cut off passing lanes. With this type of philosophy, there will, of course, be few genuine threats at the opponent’s goal. Newcastle fans know this, and that is why Pérez’s mistakes are becoming a lightning rod for negative reactions.
Consistency in the final third has been a problem for United’s attack, and it continues to be one. Pérez and Joselu are struggling. Rondón and Yoshinori Muto have shown flashes, but it has been a rarity more than anything, unfortunately. Reinforcements in January would be a positive (although that's another issue), but Newcastle must find a way to get more from their forwards in the immediate future.
Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez now prepare for a very busy week ahead. The Toon travel to face Everton on Wednesday evening, before hosting Wolverhampton on Sunday.