Kenedy subbed as Rafa shows ruth­less streak in an­other loss

New­cas­tle 1 Arse­nal 2

Sunday Sun - - Football - CHRIS WAUGH New­cas­tle writer chris.waugh@reach­plc.com

NEW­CAS­TLE United re­main win­less so far in 2018/19 af­ter the Mag­pies fell to a 2-1 de­feat against Arse­nal at St James’ Park.

For the fourth time this season, New­cas­tle lost to a so-called ‘Big Six’ side by a 2-1 score­line, though in truth the Mag­pies never looked like get­ting any­thing out of the game as soon as they fell be­hind in the 49th minute.

Rafa Ben­itez’s men dom­i­nated the first half, but failed to turn their pres­sure into goals, and it took a won­der­ful Granit Xhaka free-kick af­ter the in­ter­val to break the dead­lock.

The Gun­ners then took con­trol of the game, with Me­sut Ozil grab­bing Arse­nal’s sec­ond, be­fore sub­sti­tute Ciaran Clark nod­ded in a con­so­la­tion goal dur­ing in­jury time.

Here, NUFC Writer Chris Waugh takes us through what we learned from a dis­ap­point­ing af­ter­noon at St James’ Park...

1. NEW­CAS­TLE GO ON THE OF­FEN­SIVE - BUT THEIR ‘SHORT BLAN­KET’ IS EX­POSED

Shelvey didn’t start against Arse­nal

Ahead of the game, much of the talk cen­tred around how New­cas­tle would ap­proach tac­tics fol­low­ing two de­fen­sive dis­plays against Chelsea and Manch­ester City. Dur­ing those matches, Ben­itez played with a five-man back­line and New­cas­tle re­treated into a solid de­fen­sive unit as soon as they lost the ball.

But Ben­itez promised that he would change his ap­proach against Arse­nal; and, from the first minute, it was ev­i­dent that the New­cas­tle man­ager had stuck to his word.

The New­cas­tle de­fence stood a fur­ther 30 yards up the pitch and pressed far higher than they have all season.

Petr Cech’s fal­li­bil­ity in pos­ses­sion was some­thing the Mag­pies for­wards tar­geted dur­ing the first 45 min­utes, with Ay­oze Perez, Joselu and Ja­cob Mur­phy forc­ing the Arse­nal de­fence to con­cede cor­ners and free-kicks due to their hes­i­tant na­ture.

Isaac Hay­den and Mo Di­ame also took it in turns to ad­vance for­ward and get into the area, while Mur­phy re­peat­edly ex­ploited the vast space which Hec­tor Bel­lerin va­cated ev­ery time the Arse­nal right-back at­tacked.

Un­for­tu­nately for New­cas­tle, their ex­cel­lent all-round play dur­ing the first half was not com­ple­mented by a killer touch in the fi­nal third.

And, once Arse­nal took the lead thanks to Xhaka’s ma­jes­tic free-kick, the Gun­ners were able to ex­ploit the gaps in United’s de­fen­sive shape.

Ben­itez reg­u­larly cites the so-called ‘short blan­ket’ when his ap­proach to games is ques­tioned, and clearly New­cas­tle found them­selves ex­posed.

There is a brit­tle­ness about United at - New­cas­tle’s Kenedy bursts for­ward the mo­ment, some­thing we have not seen from the Mag­pies since be­fore the sum­mer of 2016.

2. KENEDY FINDS HIM­SELF THE VIC­TIM OF RAFA’S RUTH­LESS SIDE

While there were doubts over the fit­ness of Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey - and even though Ben­itez faced a key de­ci­sion over whether to play both DeAn­dre Yedlin and Salomon Ron­don given their in­ter­na­tional ex­ploits - the most sur­pris­ing team news did not in­volve any of that quar­tet.

There was no Shelvey in the start­ing

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