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Newcastle Still Require More Firepower to Cement a Top-Half Finish

Posted on October 26th, 2017 | No Comments |

Rafa Benitez
Benitez’s Newcastle: Solid but goalshy so far
Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez have made a terrific start to life back in the Premier League, sitting in seventh position after just nine games and possessing a positive goal difference. The Magpies have been defensively solid so far, chalking up three clean sheets, with Jamal Lascelles impressing at the heart of the back four. The Derby-born defender has also contributed at the other end of the pitch, finding the back of the net on two occasions this campaign, but many fans remain concerned about the lack of firepower within the squad.

The Toon kept Crystal Palace quiet for the majority of the contest on October 21 with summer signing Mikkel Merino’s header proving the difference between the two sides. The Spanish coach has been working hard on the training pitch to ensure his side offer a physical presence in the top flight and the Magpies appear to be increasingly difficult to beat. Only high-flying Spurs have managed to leave St. James’ Park with all three points, although their cause was significantly helped by Jonjo Shelvey’s costly lack of discipline at the beginning of the second half.

Three of Newcastle’s goals this season have arrived from corners with Matt Ritchie racking up four assists so far leaving him just two short of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne. Some supporters and pundits have pointed to the lack of clear-cut opportunities created from open play this campaign, and have suggested Benitez’s side need to be more creative if they are to make an unexpected chase for the European spots.

Joselu was added to the squad this summer and got off the mark during the clubs 3-0 success against West Ham at the end of August. The former Stoke striker insisted his new employers have enough firepower in their squad, but the Stuttgart-born striker is currently only averaging one goal every four games. Dwight Gayle has clocked up seven appearances so far, but has been on the pitch for just 202 minutes and the former Palace man is clearly suffering from a lack of confidence. Newcastle’s other options up top are Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic, who have just one goal each with the latter having failed to hit double figures domestically during any of his three seasons at the club.

Aleksandar Mitrovic
Mitrovic: Not enough goals and gets sent off
Danny Ings is one player who has been linked with the club in recent weeks, although Rafa Benitez would have to wait until the January Transfer Window opens at the start of 2018 before any business can be conducted. Former Sunderland striker, Connor Wickham, and Loic Remy have also been linked in recent months, but neither appear to be the answer to Newcastle’s shot shyness. Ings would appear to be the best fit, but any transfer would rely on the Liverpool man passing a medical and his lack of game time may require him to ease back in gently. The move would likely be a loan deal until the end of the season, although they face stiff competition from Southampton, who have also expressed an interest in the former Burnley man.

The issue is far from urgent as the Toon have coped perfectly well without a prolific striker so far, with three goals coming from both defence and midfield. They have winnable-looking home matches against Bournemouth and Leicester before embarking on a hectic Christmas period, which sees them welcome runaway leaders Manchester City to Tyneside on December 27. Pep Guardiola’s side have netted 32 times already this season, have conceded just four, and are likely to prove to be Newcastle’s sternest test to date. The Citizens have also made a decent start to their Champions League campaign and successfully came through a tough looking encounter against free-scoring Serie A side, Napoli, with three points as predicted by Oddschecker, who also suggested that both sides would find the net at the Etihad.

The Magpies may be a little light up top but they have a steeliness and know-how which has served them well so far particularly against bottom-half opposition. If they can add a genuinely instinctive goalscorer to their squad, they could make a bold bid for the European spots although a top-half finish seems an altogether more realistic target for the North East club.

NUFCBlog Author: Frankly Various Frankly Various has written 11 articles on this blog.

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