Rafa Benitez has said there were no warning signs in training last week that might have explained why the team was so poor against Fulham on Saturday and lost 3-1 – and we were well beaten.
It could have been even worse when Newcastle conceded a third penalty in four games. but Fulham missed it late in the game, otherwise it would have been a 4-1 defeat at home.
But Rafa has talked today about our players’ anxiety and if the lads are going to start playing with nervousness and anxiety in the final 9 games then that could cost us a lot of points.
Rafa Benitez on the touchline on Saturday
That’s especially true at home – when the crowd is unlikely to be calm and composed – given what the cost of losing home points could be.
Newcastle could even remain a second division side next season and that would be yet another catastrophe for a club that has had far too many of those over the last three years.
We have already in a 15 months period had two of the worst managers in Newcastle’s history in John Carver and Steve McClaren – and we have paid dearly for that.
To have Rafa talking about the players’ anxiety so late in the season is not good, but this is what he has said in the Chronicle today.
This is what the manager said when asked if there were any signs of the Saturday display during training last week:
“To be fair, no.”
“We did well in training and we were talking about how difficult this game could be but we conceded a goal in the first half that we could have avoided.”
“And then we made too many mistakes after that.”
“Against a good team, you pay for that. When you lose a game you have to analyse why and then start thinking quickly about the next one.”
“Some of the games we’ve lost at home we could have won easily because we didn’t take our chances.”
“This one is different, because we knew we were playing a team that enjoys a lot of possession and one which creates a lot of chances.”
“So we knew it would be a difficult game but we made too many mistakes and allowed them to play in the way they want to play.”
“They’ve had more than 70% of possession in the last three games, we needed to be stronger.”
“We started well with intensity but when we won the ball we gave it away quickly.”
“When we conceded the goal you could feel the anxiety of players and we made mistake after mistake.”
“We tried to find a solution at half-time but then we conceded an early goal and everything was even worse because we were under even more pressure.”
Our players have to be big enough and confident enough to play these games without anxiety and if we cannot do that we could still struggle this season.
That’s the reality of having lost 5 points in the last two games to Brighton and Huddersfield.
Our players must now step up to the plate and play like we know they can play – like against Brighton and Huddersfield after the two great wins we have just had.
But they have to do that against lower placed teams in the league – and both at home and away.
If we can do that we should be fine.
It also looks like the impressive Isaac Hayden could be back for the home game against Wigan on 1st April, but he will not be ready for this Saturday’s game at St Andrew’s.
This is the update Rafa has given on Issac:
“He still will be some time.”
We seem to play better when Hayden’s in the team so it will be good to have him back.