Newcastle United were left without anything to show for a positive opening day performance against Tottenham. They fell behind early to a goal from Jan Vertonghen that was awarded by goal line technology. The Magpies quickly fought back thanks to a goal from Joselu, before a Dele Alli header won the points for the visitors.
It was another opening day defeat to Tottenham, but there were far more positives to take from this display compared to last season. The home side worked hard until the final whistle and were arguably the better team after half-time, hitting the woodwork twice.
Their opening run of fixtures mean that they may find themselves near the bottom for the first couple of months. However, this performance showed that they should have more than enough to stay in the division. Below, we discuss three things learnt from Saturday’s game.
It is a positive that Matt Ritchie stayed during the summer
There was a lot of speculation regarding the future of Matt Ritchie over the summer. Stoke City and Middlesbrough were both heavily linked with the midfielder, but a transfer didn’t materialise, and he remained a Newcastle United player.
It was no surprise that he started against Tottenham, as he is a crucial first-team player for Newcastle and he proved that he has the quality to influence games in the Premier League. He rarely gave the ball away with an 86% pass completion and he managed to deliver a superb cross to set-up Joselu for the equaliser.
Ritchie’s work rate and quality on the ball mean that he is integral to Newcastle down the right side. At the age of 28, he will be looking to have his most productive Premier League season and Saturday was the perfect start.
The defence needs to tighten up
Last season, Newcastle’s success was built on a strong back four. They conceded 47 times and that ranked them as the 7th best defence in the Premier League. That wasn’t a huge surprise as they are coached by Rafa Benitez, who pays close attention to the organisation of the back four.
However, they were more open than he would have liked against Tottenham. Dele Alli regularly caused problems with his movement, while the marking for the first goal was poor. Benitez will believe that set pieces are heavily influenced by the tactical side of the game, therefore he won’t be wanting his team to conceded often from them.
Jamaal Lascelles was the standout defender in the Newcastle back four and he will have a huge part to play this season, both as a player and as captain. He was partnered by Ciaran Clark against Tottenham, but it is likely that either Fabian Schar or Federico Fernandez will be the one chosen to partner the club captain.
Kenedy is set for a breakout season
The Brazilian was the most important signing made by Newcastle during the summer. He arrived last season and made a huge contribution as the side climbed to safety. Many supporters were disappointed that the club didn’t sign him on a permanent deal, but another loan spell is better than not having him at all.
Kenedy showed his technical ability against Tottenham as he caused problems with his direct running and distribution in the final third. The Brazilian completed six dribbles and that created a lot of space for Newcastle to attack. His decision making was mixed, but that will get better as the season develops.
The one disappointment will be his poor first touch when he was played through on goal in the second-half. He will know that it was a golden chance to score and he should have done better. Despite this, his performance was a positive one.
Yedlin’s injury update provides lucky escape for Newcastle board
DeAndre Yedlin was forced off with a knee injury during Newcastle’s opening Premier League match against Tottenham. However, the club have now confirmed that it isn’t serious and he is likely to resume training with his team-mates imminently.
The injury was concerning when viewed at full speed and a number of analysts speculated that the American could be facing a long spell on the sidelines. That would have been disastrous for Newcastle as he has emerged as the club’s first-choice right-back over the last 12 months. The only other options in the squad are an unconvincing Javier Manquillo and an inexperienced Jamie Sterry.
Rafa Benitez campaigned for investment during the summer transfer window, but the club refused to give him a fair budget based on their revenue. This has left the manager frustrated as a number of areas within the squad haven’t been strengthened and he is now short on quality and depth.
One of the areas that he has been left short in is full-back cover. There is no doubting that Yedlin and Paul Dummett have developed into good Premier League players since Benitez took over as manager. However, there is a lack of competition for them and one major injury could spell major problems for Newcastle.
The board were nearly punished during the first match of the season and there would have been little sympathy towards Mike Ashley if Yedlin’s injury was more serious. His continual lack of investment has made the club over-reliant on certain individuals.
Although there remain doubts over the squad depth, it is fantastic news for Newcastle that Yedlin is going to be back on the pitch in the very near future. He has developed a lot under Benitez and he could be set for a breakthrough year at full-back.
As an attacking threat, he has a key role to play at St James’ Park as he often races down the line to offer a passing option on the overlap. His pace is a dangerous weapon that Newcastle often try to utilise on the counter-attack. Although Yedlin’s end product is inconsistent, he is an important player for the Magpies in attack.
In addition to offering an outlet in the attacking half, Yedlin’s pace is great for the defence, as he can use it to recover from a mistake. This has been seen countless times since Newcastle’s return to the Premier League and it provides balance to the back four.
The USA international will be delighted that he won’t be missing a significant portion of the season, but this scare should serve as a reminder to the board. Benitez needs strength in depth, otherwise, he is one injury away from a crisis.
Newcastle United round-up: Takeover update & two exits imminent
A selection of news and gossip from Newcastle United.
Lazaar to Genoa
Ahead of Friday evening’s Deadline Day in Italy, reports state that Genoa are looking set to conclude a loan deal to bring Achraf Lazaar to Serie A for the 2018-19 season – in one of two deals that appear set to go ahead in the coming days.
Gianluca Di Marzio states that Lazaar is being lined-up as a replacement for Uruguay international Diego Laxalt, who caught the eye during the World Cup in the summer and is tipped to complete a move across Italy to join AC Milan.
The Morocco international has just four Premier League appearances for Newcastle since signing in 2016 and spent last season on loan with Benevento.
Yedlin injury update
Newcastle fans and the board will be breathing a sigh of relief after news that DeAndre Yedlin’s injury sustained in the weekend’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur is not as serious as first thought, the club announced today.
The United States international limped off towards the end of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at St. James’ Park but has undergone treatment this week and is expected to resume training with the squad shortly – although it is not clear whether he will be available for this weekend’s clash with Cardiff City.
Yedlin missed just four Premier League games for Newcastle last season, establishing himself as Rafael Benitez’s leading man on the right side.
It has now been a year since Mike Ashley announced that Newcastle were up for sale and fans have been on a rollercoaster ride ever since, with the initial optimism of a deal being completed before Christmas 2017 being wiped away and the club having to endure another frustrating transfer window.
Unfortunately, there is no good news to share on the matter as The Chronicle stated on a live Q&A session that while investors are interested there is no concrete offer on the table and that Ashley will remain in charge medium-term.
“The official line from the club, and even privately, is that Newcastle remains for sale an on the market. Crucially, however, senior sources have admitted they are working on the basis that Mike Ashley will remain owner in the medium term. That is because they do not foresee a sale happening any time soon.”
Saivet to Turkey
Achraf Lazaar is not the only man looking set for a move away from Tyneside, as Henri Saivet is also tipped to leave to join a club on the continent as Turkish Football state he has agreed to terms with Bursapor on a permanent deal.
The claim is that a deal could be just hours away after he completed a medical ahead of a proposed return to Turkey, where he spent last season on loan with Sivasspor – making 12 league appearances without registering a goal or an assist.
With just five league appearances since the 2015-16 campaign, it is not surprising to see the 27-year-old on the way out.
Newcastle United talent Liam Gibson returns to action after 2017-18 illness hell
The left-back missed all of last season with ulcerative colitis and a blood clot but is now back with Newcastle United’s under-23s.
Newcastle United fans had plenty to be pleased with from their opening day performance against Tottenham Hotspur. Whilst they may have lost the game, it was a performance that will give the Toon Army hope ahead of the new season.
But whilst the Newcastle first-team looks settled, there is one player in the under-23 field who will be hoping to force his way into Rafa Benitez’s thinking in the near future.
Liam Gibson started his first competitive game for Newcastle’s under-23s since May 2017 against West Brom yesterday evening.
Last May the left-back was looking ready to make the breakthrough at Newcastle. Former under-23 boss Peter Beardsley was saying he could make it to the top. He had just come off the back of an excellent 2016-17 campaign with the Newcastle youngsters and a first-team place seemed to be around the corner.
“If someone said you’d be back training a year today, I would have laughed at them. I was that depressed at the time, I didn’t even want to play football anymore. I was saying to my parents, my girlfriend and my brother, ‘that’s it – I’ll never be able to recover from this’.
“To be training and playing now is kind of surreal. I just feel dead lucky.”
However, last season was a nightmare for the youngster. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, the same condition that once afflicted Darren Fletcher so dramatically, Gibson underwent four operations last season and did not play a single game. A blood clot in his calf also laid him out for a period of time.
But he played 89 minutes yesterday as he continues his comeback. Newcastle fans will hope it is just the start and Gibson can push into the first-team one day.
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