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Newcastle: Benitez on Cardiff win; first piece of January business completed; Gouffran pleased with role

Newcastle managed to secure their eighth consecutive victory with a 2-1 win against Cardiff City at St James’ Park.

After taking a two goal lead in the first half, Newcastle had chances to make their afternoon a lot more comfortable, but then some sluggish play allowed the visitors to get back into the match.

Cardiff came with a game plan to be physical and unsettle the home side, especially from set pieces.

After the match, Benitez admitted that the game was a test for his players:

“In football if you play well you will have more chances to win more games. Sometimes you cannot because the other team is physically strong or aggressive.”

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“If the referee allows this type of contact you have to play and you have to adapt. If you can do that it means you are stronger.”

These comments suggest that Benitez was unhappy with the officiating, but pleased with his players as they managed to get a result regardless. It was always to be expected that Neil Warnock would send his players out on Saturday to be aggressive and to get into Newcastle’s faces. Benitez would have prepared his players for that and they managed to get the job done. Although they didn’t play well for portions of the second half, they got the desired result and that is the mark of Champions.

One of the goalscorers yesterday has been one of the stories of the season after working his way into Rafa Benitez’s plans. Yoan Gouffran was available for transfer during the summer, but he opted to stay and fight for his place. It was a good decision from the Frenchman as he is now established in the first team. He scored the second goal yesterday, which was his fourth of the season and he spoke to after the game.

“I am happy, and I am enjoying playing with my teammates this year.”

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“This season it is really different, because I am playing with confidence and I hope that can continue.

“Maybe (the system) has helped me. Sometimes I can get free, and I can play my game, but the tactics are the choice of the manager.”

It will be interesting what the future holds for Gouffran as his contract expires at the end of the season and there has been some speculation linking him with a move back to Ligue 1. At the age of 30, Newcastle are unlikely to offer him a new contract, especially as there are doubts about his ability to influence matches in the Premier League. However, he deserves praise for his contributions this season and it should provide a good end to his career at St James’ Park.

Looking ahead to January, Newcastle have already completed their first piece of transfer business, as Florian Thauvin’s move to Marseille has been made permanent, which secures them a £9.8m windfall. This will allow Newcastle to make further moves in January as they try to build a squad that is well equipped to do well in the Premier League next season.

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This is good news for Newcastle as Thauvin never settled on Tyneside with his spell at the club showing that the previous recruitment strategy was doomed to fail. They targeted players based on potential and sell-on value, rather than how they suited the team’s needs. Similar mistakes will not be made now that Benitez has total control.

The money will give the Spaniard the opportunity to strengthen his squad further which will be required as a number of players are set to miss January due to the African Cup of Nations. Newcastle are now operating in a powerful position as players will want to be a part of what is being built at the club.

There are exciting times ahead for the Newcastle faithful.

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