Rafa is giving those players now away on International duty a five-day break before they return to training and have over a week to prepare for the game at Arsenal two weeks tomorrow night.
It’s a good time to give the players a rest before the final six weeks of the season when we play the seven remaining games – starting on April Fool’s Day at the Emirates Stadium.
Players celebrate Matt Ritchie’s brilliant late equalizer
We were lucky to get a point yesterday in the 2-2 draw at the Vitality Stadium with Matt Ritchie scoring in stoppage time with a wonderful left-footed volley against his old club.
But we were so unlucky that referee Mike Dean again made some weird decisions and gave the home side a very soft penalty early in the second half to bring them back into the game.
Hopefully VAR next season will cut out a lot of these controversies – at least the obvious errors like yesterday’s penalty against the Magpies.
This is what Rafa said after the game yesterday and halfway through he talks about the soft penalty given to the home side:
“The players are working so hard, you can see that in every game.” “The team is pushing and pushing.”
“Some teams give up, but we didn’t do it and it was a great reaction.”
“The players can now relax a little bit and have some time off.”
“What about the one on DeAndre (foul in penalty area) after 10 minutes that was not given?”
“It is football and you know that we will have different opinions, but I was not happy with that.”
“In football, if you want to clear, you clear it. I am not happy overall, but I am happy we have one more point and one less game.”
Rafa was happy with the never-say-die approach to these games by his players and Matt Ritchie epitomizes that passion as he scored his third goal of the season – and what a goal it was.
At the end of the day we took something out of the game yesterday but the match was changed by referee Mike Dean.
That’s 35 points we now have with seven games still to play.