Yesterday’s 2-0 win at Derby County was our fourth shutout in a row and we have only conceded 4 goals in the six league games this season so far – and that’s the lowest in the Championship along with the leaders Huddersfield Town and Brentford.
And for a side who conceded a massive 190 goals in the last three seasons in the Premier League that’s a refreshing and massive improvement, to say the least.
Rafa Benitez greets captain Jamaal Lascelles after the game
We remember when Rafa first joined Newcastle on March 13th and he said that improving the defense was easy, but that creating and scoring chances was much more difficult.
Improving the defense maybe easy because it’ s about organization to a large extent and defending against set plays.
And in his 10 games in charge last season Rafa did improve the defense and in fact finished with a goal difference in those 10 games of +4 and conceded 12 goals.
At the moment our goal difference is +6 after 6 league games and it’s the best in the Championship.
In our seven games in all competitions this season we have had four clean sheet and that augers well for the future.
In particular, the back four and goalkeeper Sels looked comfortable yesterday and as we had hoped we are now seeing Matz settle in at Newcastle.
The Belgian had another good game yesterday and made two huge saves for us when it really mattered.
If Matz keeps improving then Rob Elliot is going to find it difficult to replace him once Rob is fit and he will need to be at his very best.
But that’s why Rafa has forced such an improvement at Newcastle this season, because of the intense competition for places.
We could even have fielded a completely different starting 11 yesterday and maybe we would have done just as well – such is the competition for places in the squad.
Here’s an alternative starting team for yesterday.
Gamez Hanley Clark Lazaar/Haidara
Yedlin Perez Atsu
That’s got to be good for the team and maybe as the season progresses we will see better performances.
It’s interesting to note that Newcastle have played only one of the teams in the current bottom 11 of the league – and that was Derby County yesterday, who were higher up the table before the game.
Before yesterday we had not played any of the clubs in the bottom half of the table.
So we hope we can keep getting the wins and keep climbing the table – although we are now in second place and 4 points behind Huddersfield.
It’s starting to look promising, but we will keep our feet firmly on the ground, after all that’s happened over the last terrible three seasons.
Once bitten twice shy.