Manchester City remain undefeated this season after claiming three points over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Wednesday.
After defeating West Ham in London over the weekend, Newcastle United returned to St. James’ Park to take on the most dominant club in England and maybe Europe – Manchester City. The Sky Blues came into this match without suffering a single defeat all season, and that trend continued after the final whistle was blown as they beat the Magpies 1-0.
The fact that Newcastle only lost by a minimal scoreline is impressive, as Manchester City have scored four or more goals against seven Premier League clubs this season. For more insight from the match, here are five things we learned from the loss on Wednesday evening.
The eleven starters for Newcastle United emulated Cold War bunkers that were positioned in front of the penalty area to prevent early goals from a dangerous Manchester City side. With DeAndre Yedlin, Paul Dummett, Jamaal Lascelles, Chancel Mbemba and Javier Manquillo spread out on the back-line, Jacob Murphy, Mohamed Diame, Jonjo Shelvey, Rolando Aarons and Joselu all played their part in blocking off the opposition for as long as they possibly could.
Despite having so many players on defense, Manchester City continued to find ways to thread passes and crosses into the danger zone and even hit the post multiple times. Whether it was a tactic intended to frustrate the City attack or a method to avoid conceding seven goals like Stoke City did earlier this year, Rafa Benitez and the Magpies did not need to show that much respect to their opposition.
Hopefully this tactic is not implemented when the two sides meet again on January 20.
After spending the first 30 minutes of the match and most of the second half chasing passes from the opposition, there were 15 minutes over the course of the match when Newcastle United showed some signs of life.
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Quickly after conceding a goal from Raheem Sterling, the Magpies looked like a different team between the 31st and 36th minute of the match with quick passes and a brilliant effort from Rolando Aarons that was headed off the line. The final ten minutes of the match were also entertaining as Newcastle United maintained possession and put the ball in the danger zone multiple times.
In the upcoming match against Brighton, the Magpies must build on the last ten minutes from last night to place the opposing defense under constant pressure.
The Return of Paul Dummett
After missing so much of the season due to a severe hamstring injury, it was nice to see the defender back in action for Newcastle United. While most players display poor form from months of inactivity, Dummett fit into his role nicely and showcased his athleticism on multiple occasions against Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero.
With Dummett back in the rotation, Newcastle enjoy more competition in defense. His return also comes at a perfect time, as some of the upcoming fixtures enable Benitez to rest some key defenders against weaker clubs.
Mikel Merino and Christian Atsu
Despite only playing limited minutes as second-half substitutes against Manchester City, the two midfielders demonstrated why they are fan favorites yet again. With Merino’s composed dribbling in the middle of the pitch and Atsu’s pace along the wings, the two midfielders had a meaningful impact from the second they were subbed on.
They will most certainly play from the start of the match against Brighton if Newcastle wish to earn three points.
The Toon Army
Despite the poor performance from the Magpies in front of their own crowd, the Toon Army continued to make their presence felt as the 12th man for 90 minutes. The constant chanting, singing and loud roars every time United would touch the ball was admirable.
With Brighton coming to St. James’ Park on Saturday, the fervent support from the Toon Army could make the difference between the two sides in a crucial match where three points are a necessity for Newcastle United if they want to avoid relegation.