Newcastle United: 5 things we learned from the 0-0 draw vs. Brighton

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Paul Dummett of Newcastle United looks on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion at St. James Park on December 30, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: Paul Dummett of Newcastle United looks on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion at St. James Park on December 30, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images) /
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There was nothing to separate Newcastle United and Brighton on Saturday, as the two clubs took a point from the 0-0 draw at St. James’ Park.

It was a poor match for both clubs in terms of quality as Brighton took a much-deserved away point, while Newcastle United disappointed their fans with a dismal performance at home yet again.

The Magpies failed to take advantage of this match in which they could have earned three points and moved significantly closer to the top half of the table. Now all hands must be on-deck for the match against Stoke City tomorrow. But before looking ahead, let us discuss five key observations from the 0-0 draw against Brighton.

Lack of Creativity

It is understandable that Newcastle United are suffering from fatigue after playing three matches in seven days, but so did every other club in the Premier League. In order to win matches in this league a team needs to have a creative edge over their opponents, and yesterday was evident that this creativity is lacking.

The Magpies enjoyed plenty of pace in every position, but the passing game was very weak, perhaps the weakest passing performance for the club all season. If Newcastle United aim to earn a victory at Stoke City they must be able to string together meaningful passes starting from the middle of the pitch, out to the wings and back into the penalty area.

Lack of Intensity

Aside from some scrappy play along the wings, Newcastle United lacked sufficient intensity for the second straight game. It was assumed by pundits that Rafa Benitez’s tactic to park the bus against Manchester City was implemented to conserve energy and stamina for the Brighton match three days later, however, this energy and intensity was non-existent.

Brighton took advantage of the soft play from Newcastle, as midfielders enjoyed the ability to move the ball around from side-to-side while also accelerating through passing lanes untouched. This must change when the Magpies play Stoke City, or the elite midfield play of Xherdan Shaqiri could make Newcastle United suffer.

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Late Substitutions

Unlike some matches earlier in the season, Rafa Benitez made the correct substitutions against Brighton as he incorporated players with more speed and attack-minded playing styles. The only problem with these substitutions is that they came far too late.

Benitez should not hesitate to make changes during the half-time break. One can learn a lot about their own club and the opposition after the first 45 minutes of play, and in yesterday’s match it was evident that inserting more attacking players from the start of the second half could have made a significant difference in the final outcome.

Joselu

Joselu was the perfect choice to start against Manchester City as the Magpies intended to play defensive football, but he should have been on the bench yesterday against Brighton. This was a match that Newcastle United needed to win to climb up the table, and to do that Ayoze Perez should have started the match alongside Dwight Gayle.

In matches against mediocre clubs, Rafa Benitez needs to understand that Joselu does not have the pace to beat defenders and he is too dependent on receiving passes to score. Gayle and Perez, on the other hand, are technically gifted and create their own scoring chances (which was missing yesterday).

Clean Sheet

The lone bright spot from the match yesterday was that the Magpies did not concede a goal. The return of Paul Dummett in the lineup has added more stability to Newcastle United’s back-four, and the defense has started to regain its impressive form from the start of the season.

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A clean sheet against Stoke City tomorrow will be difficult to achieve, but as long as Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark, Paul Dummett and DeAndre Yedlin can remain in-sync and maintain active communication for 90 minutes, then Newcastle United have a good chance to rebound from the 0-0 draw.