Rafa Talks Tactics About The All Important Southampton Game

We thought Rafa would play a 4-5-1 formation at Anfield but he didn’t and he played five at the back and four in midfield.

A defensive line-up nevertheless against one of the in-form teams in the Premier League.

Newcastle were on the defensive on Saturday.

But if we survive relegation, Rafa stays with us – and he’s allowed to improve the quality of the side significantly this summer – we will be attacking the Reds in future games at Anfield.

Note there are a lot of ifs in that statement for that to actually happen.

Rafa Benitez – at Anfield on Saturday

Rafa knows that in the next two home games against Southampton and Huddersfield Town at home –  Newcastle will need to attack if we are to get the two wins we need to alleviate the serious threat of relegation.

Benitez said this in the Chronicle when asked if he would attack Southampton next Saturday:

“Yes.” “It’s obvious they are different teams, different scenarios.”

“So it’s not the same when you play away against one of the top teams in the Premier League than when you play at home against one of the teams in your position more or less.”

“This was just to make sure we had good control and then play counter-attack. We were not a real threat in the first half.”

“But we were controlling the game so they didn’t have clear chances, just at the end a corner situation – nothing else.”

“We were happy with that but we were still not very happy overall because we have to create more.”

“Obviously Southampton will be different. We play at home with our fans behind us. We have to attack and we have to create chances.”

“Obviously every game is important to us but these types of games against the teams close to us we have to do well in.”

“We have to go against Southampton, take three points and if not stay calm and carry on until the end.”

With some fans openly objecting to the defensive formation and play of Newcastle on Saturday, we expect Rafa to call on fans to be calm and keep backing the side.

He will say that in his press conference on Friday and his mantra has been – if we all stay behind the team Newcastle can (and will) avoid relegation.

We certainly hope so.

Another relegation would be yet another disaster under Mike Ashley’s pitiful ownership of the club for eleven long and painful years.

Comments welcome.

59 comments so far

  • kimbo

    Mar 5, 2018 at 9:27 AM

    Comment #1

    Another tactical performance will see us lose. We need to attack and score goals. Rafa a goal difference of -100 with one additional point is better than a goal difference of -13 and one point less.

  • posada

    Mar 5, 2018 at 9:45 AM

    Comment #2


    Mar 4, 2018 at 12:02 PM
    Comment #3

    Rafa does what and who he wants as a centre forward / striker for NUFC but it’s the greedy bugger holding the purse strings. Can you not see that ? How many times throughout the last transfer window were NUFC linked with this one and that one only to find that the likes of Everton jumped in with a decent offer and stole the player while Greedy boy Ashley was still trying to play hard ball about the price.
    Back in the day when Kevin or Sir Bobby were in charge then Freddy and Sir John used to go all out to give them the players that they wanted and most of the time it paid off and we were flying high as we should be now, But the big difference is money. No money, No players, No success !


    I accept the above to a certain extent.
    However, we don’t have a CF at all. Gayle, not the complete package, Mitro did not suit Rafa’s plans, not very mobile.
    Brighton are doing ok with a CF who cost about 3M.
    We let Daryl Murphy go, a player of a similar standard.
    We also spent 12M and 5M on J.Murphy and Joselu.
    Could have had a very decent CF for that money.

    It’s clear Mitro and Gayle were up forsale at one point. Probably with a view to a purchase.
    Seems it was all about for one in you must have one out.

  • posada

    Mar 5, 2018 at 9:52 AM

    Comment #3

    Also, Freddy went all out and got us Luque and Michael Owen.
    We did not have the money, it was borrowed against future income.
    Could have bankrupted the club, but we will never know as a certain MA steped in and bought us.

    Having said that I liked Freddy. With SJH they did a lot for the club.

  • yitzhak rabin

    Mar 5, 2018 at 9:58 AM

    Comment #4

    Forgive me but thats all long gone
    whats needed is action
    win at all costs

  • Mag52

    Mar 5, 2018 at 10:03 AM

    Comment #5

    The defensive line up was, IMO, justified against Liverpool, but v Arsenal and, to a lesser extent Chelsea, at the moment, a more attacking game could work, just as Brighton played v Arsenal recently.
    Both teams are having a poor season, by their standards, and don’t look as if they ‘like it up ‘em’.

  • Lee Charnley Bunga Party

    Mar 5, 2018 at 10:12 AM

    Comment #6

    Southampton are still very good in possession but don’t like being pressed so we need Perez and Richie back in the team for this to work effectively be a shame to not have Shelvey as he was starting to come into a bit of form with Diame! Merino looks off the pace and doesn’t look as suited to playing in a midfield 2 without Perez cover in front of him!

    They don’t score many goals either so will be a tight game

  • toonincheek

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:00 AM

    Comment #7

    Bunga –

    Bit too soon to write off Shelvey, isn’t it?

    If it’s a tight game, then so much comes down to tactics.
    A win by a couple of goals means an extra point when
    compared with Soton’s goal difference.

  • Shot Bru

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:15 AM

    Comment #8

    Unsurprising result on Saturday against one of Europes in form teams.

    Weve got a pretty good run in, but the pressure is on the players and Rafa for the next 2 home games.

    Wagner, cleverly started the mind games a couple of weeks ago, saying there’s more pressure on us to stay up this season than Hudders…knowing that the home fans can have a negative effect on the team and atmosphere if things aren’t going well during the game….

    Is Slimani anywhere near playing for us…another complete waste of space by the looks of things!!!

  • RobLeenio

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:17 AM

    Comment #9

    Is it safe to come out yet? So much negativity the last couple of days. Our situation is no different, Stoke, Palace, Hudds and Saints are still strong candidates for relegation and West Ham and Everton are going backwards and are definitely in the mix now. We still have to play Saints, Hudds and West Brom at home and 2 wins from those plus maybe three points (ie 3 draws) from elsewhere will see us safe on 38 points. Those saying we have to beat Saints or it’s game over need to be a little more realistic – even a loss to them would not be the end of the World, though I agree it would be nice to get the points sooner and know we’re more likely to stay up than go down.

    We only need one point per game to stay safe.

  • martoon

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:18 AM

    Comment #10

    Anybody finding in IE11 that the comments are all in a thin column at the right hand side instead of at the bottom – I’ve tried three different Laptops and they are all the same – OK on Google Chrome!

  • A Pain in the Blog

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:21 AM

    Comment #11

    Andy Hunter in the Guardian wrote this morning that [NUFC] …a collection of modest talent restricted Jürgen Klopp’s flying team to three shots on target. Newcastle had two, but could not profit. “Three shots on target, I was surprised,” Benítez said. “We wanted to be strong in defence and create more in counterattack. We couldn’t do it, why? Because we have a very good team in front of us. We got into some good positions and we were running full pace but still we couldn’t beat them. When you pay money you pay money not just because of their technical ability. It’s the quality, the decisions and the physicality. Everything that is the difference between teams.”

    Nice to see a more balanced article.

  • RobLeenio

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:21 AM

    Comment #12

    BTW, congrats to Hoots and the Brighton team, who stand on the threshold of safety. They only need probably 4 more points to be safe and, while their run-in is tough, they have games against Palace and West Brom which should be enough. They’re in-form, Glenn Murray has a bunch of goals recently and I hope Hoots gets the recognition he deserves when they do stay up.

  • Shot Bru

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:26 AM

    Comment #13

    Robleenio.. I disagree mate, a home defeat to Southampton would be a shocker of a result.

    We need to win the next 2 games at home against the 2 teams above and below us.

  • toonincheek

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:33 AM

    Comment #14

    Robleenio –

    It’s about time our lads realised we are in deep poo poo.
    Anything less than a win against Soton leaves us with
    even MORE to do against other teams.

    OK – so a loss to Soton doesn’t 100% mean relegation –
    but not far off.

    Hope our lads realise that.

  • Our Toon

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:37 AM

    Comment #15


    A defeat at home to Southampton would be a shocking result and would almost guarantee relegation. Don’t see how we would survive with the run in we have

  • A Pain in the Blog

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:39 AM

    Comment #16

    Shot Bru, Toonincheek and Our Toon

    I agree with Rob that a win against Southampton is not critical to our avoidance of relegation. Current form shows that we are more likely to draw with them than beat them as a result of their recent away form being among the best in the league.

    Recent form also suggests that we are as likely to draw at home against Everton and Arsenal as against Southampton. As Rob says, we will be able to pick up points in matches other than Southampton, Huddersfield and West Brom. Keep the faith.

  • RobLeenio

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:40 AM

    Comment #17

    Shot Bru – you can disagree all you like, but the fact remains that we don’t ‘need’ to win the Saints game – we need 9 points in total which could come from 2 wins from Saints, Hudds and West Brom and points from Everton, Leicester and Watford, for eg. 9 points will give us 38 in total which should be enough for survival, the stated aim of any sane NUFC fan at the start of the season. Of course wins vs Saints and Hudds will give us a fantastic boost but saying we ‘need’ these results is factually inaccurate and needlessly hypes up those matches to a point where the fans transmit tension to the players.

    Even 5 points vs Saints, Hudds and West Brom wouldn’t be a disaster at this stage of the season, but if we draw vs Saints and Hudds there will be bedlam on here, sadly

  • Shot Bru

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:49 AM

    Comment #18

    Rob and Pain

    If Palace win tonight and we lose to Soton on Saturday we are in even more trouble with only 8 games left with 2 of them against Spurs and Chelsea.

  • Shot Bru

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:52 AM

    Comment #19

    We need 2 wins in the next 2 home games..

    If the players have anything about them, they should thrive under the pressure under the guidance of Rafa..right?

  • RobLeenio

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:53 AM

    Comment #20

    Shot Bru, Toonincheek, Our Toon – all of you are talking as if I’ve said a defeat against Saints would be ok. I didn’t say that, I said it wasn’t life or death that we win, which is different. A loss to them would give them 3 points, dent our confidence and lift theirs and would be a problem. A draw on the other hand should be manageable, though I agree a win is by far a better outcome. I just don’t see the outcome of our entire season resting on this one result, as so many seem to. It’s illogical.

  • posada

    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:57 AM

    Comment #21

    Hoots. I couldn’t give a stuff about Hoots.
    He gave a two stone overweight Sol Campbell a contract on 60K a week.
    probs one of the reasons why he was sacked.

    Arsenal. Are they trying to send us down. Couple of weeks ago I think it was against Hudderfield when their goalie made mistakes and they played poorly. Will they do that against us. I doubt it.
    That’s how things seem to go though when you are at the bottom and can’t make your own luck.

  • griff

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:03 PM

    Comment #22

    RobLeenio, this is a football blog. Passion and Paranoia are the order of the day and logic rarely enters the room!

  • Shot Bru

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:03 PM

    Comment #23

    Rob.. I know you’re trying to look on the bright side of things.. but draws and defeats against teams around us at this stage of the season are no good to us now.

    We’ve already thrown away too many points against fellow strugglers this season.

    We have to beat Soton Hudders and WBA at home.. and Rafa needs to be more attack minded in his tactics too.

  • beefman13

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:06 PM

    Comment #24

    Kimbo is right, 1 point is better than -100 goal difference, I will add we did look v good defensively v Liverpool, we got beat, not acceptable at SJP at any time, just my opinion.

  • Our Toon

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:07 PM

    Comment #25

    Rob & a pain in the blog

    Form means nothing when you add extra pressure on getting results. We crumbled at Bournemouth under pressure and with each game that goes by that pressure increases. The only way to get breathing space is by wins.

    The next 2 games are crucial and we should pick up 6 points, no excuses not to unfortunately!! We have the youngest squad in this league and they will crumble under pressure

  • RobLeenio

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:18 PM

    Comment #26

    Lol Griff.

    Shot Bru, I’m not looking on the bright side, I’m being realistic. If we draw vs Saints, it will not be the end of our season. If we subsequently draw against Hudds, it still won’t be, although we will then probably ‘need’ to beat West Brom as chances for earning points will be running short.

    Do you imagine Rafa is putting this kind of pressure in such explicit terms on the players’ heads? Do you think he’s tearing his hair out while looking at the Saints fixture, desperately thinking “If we draw this, it’s game over”? Or do you think he and the team are assessing it objectively, looking for a tactical plan which could give us the best chance of a result? I’m pretty sure they’ll approach this game the same as any other and leave the panicking for Alan Pardew

  • griff

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:21 PM

    Comment #27

    Our Toon, that is a contradictory line of reasoning. While I also am keen for a win, the season isn’t over if we lose. I am expecting a draw to be honest but that isn’t the worst.

  • griff

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:22 PM

    Comment #28


  • Shot Bru

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:31 PM

    Comment #29

    Fair play to to you rob I respect your opinions mate, I just disagree.

    In the quote above by Rafa he says, we have to get 3 points against Soton, which I agree with.

  • RobLeenio

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:32 PM

    Comment #30

    Pain, sorry I missed your comment. You’re right about Saints’ form – they draw away games, we draw home games. It seems written in the stars but there will be Hell on here if it happens.

  • toonincheek

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:33 PM

    Comment #31

    1 point is better than -100 goal difference ?

    Stating the obvious without regard for the reality.

  • firebug666

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:33 PM

    Comment #32

    My two penneth worth, Every point is vital at this stage of the season, we really cannot afford to drop anymore, (though we undoubtedly will). Rafa is doing the best that he can with what the owner has seen fit to provide. I doubt any of them were Rafa’s first choice, so it’s a case of making do with what you have.

    I think we will take all the points on Saturday, it may be a tight game with one goal winning it, but I reckon that will be our goal. We have pace in the team for counter-attacking but lack the quality to finish it, but still, a goal from midfield may be all we need.

    Keep positive we will need the fans behind the lads for this one.

  • RobLeenio

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:35 PM

    Comment #33

    Shot Bru, yep, certainly not trying to stir controversy or get anyone’s backs up, but I equally don’t like the lads and Rafa coming in for undue stick, which is bound to happen if the Saints match is over-hyped ahead of time.

    That said, if you’re going to quote Rafa, you may as well use the full quote including the bit where he says “if not (3 points), stay calm and carry on till the end”. This part is key, I feel

  • Lee Charnley Bunga Party

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:41 PM

    Comment #34

    The home fans can play a part as well if the atmosphere is like it was against Man Utd the players will just about be able to get the win against Southampton.

    The problem is Southampton will sit in and let us try and break them down which is where we may come a cropper this type of game would be more suited to a striker like Slimani or Mitrovic (maybe Joselu) who can then hold the ball up and bring others into play! We really could with a target man and Gayle up top but we would then lose the midfield battle

  • Essex Geordie Bill

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:43 PM

    Comment #35


    Why do you think I’m being moderated, I’m certainly not aware of this happening?

  • dig-n-dig22

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:48 PM

    Comment #36

    Shot bru #13
    A agree with your comment 100%. It’s not unrealistic to expect max pts from our next 2 fixtures after the Man U performance, We need everyone focused on these 2 vital games.We win those 2 games and it doesn’t matter what teams around us do, the results will make us 95%safe Wagner said there is more pressure on us than on Huddersfield, Wagner obviously hasn’t had a look at their run in, “IT’S FRIGHTING”

  • Essex Geordie Bill

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:49 PM

    Comment #37

    A pain in the blog

    I saw the post match stats on MOTD and was surprised to see that the shots on target were 3 for them and 2 for us, given that they only show highlights perhaps it wasn’t as one sided as it appeared or they made it out to be.

  • cleveleysbob

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:52 PM

    Comment #38

    A lot of people recently have been comparing Rafa’s treatment of Shelvey to that of Mitro.
    I think the answer is simple, Shelvey has an “anger management” issue that can be improved with treatment which he appears to be getting and looks like it’s working – Mitro on the other hand can (and does) simply do something stupid, and you can’t cure stupidity!
    Hope that put’s it to bed now, move on, Mitrovic is no longer here.

  • Shot Bru

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:53 PM

    Comment #39

    Apologies rob, should have used the full quote. just trying to point out that Rafa knows he needs to win this game.

    Think Rafa and others realise picking up wins against Soton, Hudders and WBA makes life easier, than having to do it against Spurs Chelsea and Arsenal.

    I and many others on the blog don’t freak out when we lose games and are pretty realistic like yourself rob

    In fact, at the start of the season I predicted we would finish 17th on martoons prediction table, so not the type to go overboard with negativity.

  • Essex Geordie Bill

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:54 PM

    Comment #40

    This Saturday is most definitely a must, must must, must win game, a real foot in the face for Southampton on the relegation ladder.

    No pressure there then lads!!!


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