Patience Is Needed At NUFC Considering......
We are, what we are and someone said it the other day on the telly in that we have a championship side with a champions league manager.
The game against Bournemouth, like the majority of our other games, could have produced a different result such was the lack of a dominating team on the day but the reward for a potential lucky last gasp win over Crystal Palace was to see us suffer a similar fate in our next home game.
Us, like Palace, didn't really deserve the end result considering.....
As it was, it was an end to end game which lacked the excitement of the description and there was no lack of effort from most although one or two of ours were below par or just not good enough. The likes of Christian Atsu who hardly busted a gut to get in wide positions and Rob Elliot come to mind here.
We know that enough money hasn't been invested in the squad for years and we know that Rafa Benitez was left short in the last couple of transfer windows but it hasn't stopped people criticising him. Whether it's short sightedness or not is debatable although it's a dangerous game to play if we make him an untouchable sort when it comes to handing out the criticism badges. I guess he'd be one of the first to hold his hands up if he thinks he has made a mistake and unless im mistaken, I dont think he has done that recently which explains a lot.
Rafa wont come out and complain about his weak links in the squad but we're screaming out for a proper striker. Everyone knows this. We are also needing the same efforts on finding a confident dominating keeper, another player in the mould of Mikel Merino in the middle, a left back and dare I say a proper touchline hugging left sided winger. This is just for starters.
Obviously, takeover or not, the long term goal would be to improve the players in positions we have but with Rafa's tactics and with the personnel at his disposal, there is just enough to survive this year although a couple of players of quality in January will give us breathing space to allow the premier league kitty cash to mount up and give us a better chance of a spend.
Bournemouth did their homework on us but didn't stop us playing. Dwight Gayle made countless brilliantly timed runs that were either not seen or attempted passes were cut out although one of them was clearly onside from my viewpoint when he latched on to Matt Ritchie's shot off the post to slot in but like the hundreds of times we've mentioned the officials before on spoiling the game, we cant just blame them for other failings.
Their goal was like ours against Crystal Palace in that when you get a set piece in the later stages of the game, you have nothing to lose by lumping it in the box as one decent connection will pay dividends 99% of the time and it proved the case. Call it a freak goal but thems the breaks.
Atsu for me today along with Elliot and his slo mo distribution were the pick of the bad uns but touching on the Rafa criticism, I think it's harsh to say the least because he gambled today. He gambled on introducing a second striker into a system that he has trusted for years and he allowed it to expand to two strikers up front for certain periods of the game.
In fairness it didn't fail and on another day and in the case of the Spurs home game without a Jonjo Shelvey red card, the Brighton game, the Southampton away game, Liverpool at home as well as Burnley the other night, it could so easily have seen results go in our favour as the effort is there as well as the game plan. The officials could also be blamed in one or two of these as well.
With a weak squad overall trying to play a system that will really excel with better quality players, we're getting enough to provide results but it's borderline at present. Hopefully January will change things with a new owner.
As for the Aleksandar Mitrovic saga, people need to let go. We've had our say on him that he needs more chances than Papiss Cisse to find the target but there's obviously something more to this than meets the eye. As Rafa is the bloke who gets paid to pick the team then he deserves the chance as well as the respect to pick who he wants. He cant just stick a player in because a handful of people on social media are screaming out for the Serbian heed the baal to win the game in the later stages when in all honesty he may just as easily been sent off and cost us the game.
With the benefit of hindsight, maybe Rafa would have thrown him in late today but I see it that Rafa is trying one last gasp mind game in moulding Mitrovic in taking his next chance if he gets one as he'll be full of fire. If this doesn't transcend into his training then you can understand the reluctance to allow play time.
We'll be alright this season based on what ive witnessed but it wont be pretty and we've many games ahead that will be touch and go until the end.