When Rafa Benitez announced his team for the game at Birmingham on Saturday and there were eight changes made, we thought it would be very difficult to win the game.
We had players like Tiote, Murphy, Lazaar and Haidara who had played very little football this season and would lack match practice, even if they were full fit physically.
Tiote had played for around 15 minutes this season and Haidara hadn’t played in over a year.
Rafa said before the game he had to rest some players who were playing too much and he pointed to Dwight Gayle who was playing too much and indicated that Aleksandar Mitrovic would start the game.
Rafa Benitez – made eight changes to the side for Birmingham
But then Mitro was injured after only five minutes and on came Yoan Gouffran the plan was shot a little, but Rafa has said everything was fine for the first 30 minutes until we lost control of the game – and the early substation hurt us.
But Rafa also says it’s important that players who haven’t played much get some playing time, so they will be ready when next called upon.
This is what Rafa said to the local press after the game on Saturday as reported in the Shields Gazette:
“I was a little bit disappointed.” “Not because of the formation, but because we were trying to play with two strikers and we lost one after just a few minutes, so we had to change things in the game.”
“We wanted to manage in a way that was more similar to what we were trying to do and get more from it.”
“But in terms of the defence and the midfielders, I was trying to protect some players who were not playing too much to be sure we have numbers there.”
“I think it was fine.” “It was fine for 30 minutes, and after we needed a little bit more control, but maybe we didn’t have the legs to cope with the pace of the game.”
“In possession, we could maybe do a little bit better.” “We gave the ball away too much, and so we had to defend a lot.” “I was happy with a lot of things, but we can improve the understanding.”
“We can improve some obvious things.”
“It was a different approach with Mitrovic.” “We had an idea with Mitrovic and Murphy, but with Gouff it was different.”
“He had one or two chances. He did well, but in the end for us it meant we had one substitution already and it was hard to manage the physical condition of some players.”
“They needed to be changed or substituted to give fresh legs to the team – but we couldn’t do that.”
“We knew before that the worst thing could be to play another game,” “But, OK, it’s what we have, and we have to try to manage properly.”
“We must try to win, and manage it properly, but make sure we don’t lose focus on the league.”
“It’s important for players without minutes to play another game.” “It can help some of them to be better, to be fit for the rest of the season and to use them.”
“On the other hand, it’s bad news because we have to play more games, use more players and that always creates more risk.”
To us it seemed a risk with so many changes being made – and it reminded us a little bit of how our 9 game winning streak came to an end against Blackburn, when six changes were made and some of the new players coming in just didn’t perform up to scratch.
When players haven’t played for a while they are going to be rusty and off the pace – Tiote was very rusty and kept giving the ball away and was caught in possession in the first half.
There’s seems no way they can perform at the top of their game unless they are playing fairly regularly.
But hopefully we can still get through to the fourth round of the FA Cup and maybe Jonjo Shelvey can play in the replay – he will need some matches quickly when he becomes available after the game at Brentford on Saturday.
That will be the fifth and final game of his suspension.
What do you think?