Newcastle United put in a soulless performance against Arsenal to lose 2-0 which irked beIN Sport pundit Andy Gray, but was the result just an example of teams in the lower half of the table targeting specific fixtures to pick up points from?
More than a decade and a half ago, you could have lambasted a Newcastle United manager for being too defensive against Arsenal, because back then, the Magpies were quite a force.
Sadly, though, the Premier League is at a stage of the season where targeting games against the sides in the lower half of the table is far more important against showing ‘Spirit and fight’ against a side that have far superior players than your own.
Gray, who seems like he isn’t a big fan of Rafa Benitez, felt the side were too negative and that might frustrate Salomon Rondon.
“Newcastle were disappointing,” Gray was quoted as saying by Chronicle Live.
“They were like they were at the start of the season – flat, and never offered a thing in attack.
“They were punchless.
“I felt for Salomon Rondon, I have played up there and I know what’s it like going to these grounds and not getting a kick.
“That’s what Rondon would feel like.
“Arsenal were never threatened. It was too easy for them.”
Benitez is known to be a pretty pragmatic manager, and you can’t begrudge him for maybe asking the players to play within themselves, which is something that can be said in hindsight judging from the performance.
Newcastle tend to be defensive even at home, but the performance at the Emirates showed no real desire as the away side sat back and allowed Arsenal to dictate play with ease.
Upcoming games more important than a ‘spirited performance’ against Arsenal
Arsenal have been quite strong at home, so even if the Magpies had played with more pizzazz or whatever the word Gray has in mind, it’s unlikely they would have stopped the Gunners from making it ten home wins in a row.
Newcastle showed that they can compete with the best of sides on their day, and their win against Manchester City proves it.
However, impressive performance against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur resulted in no points gained, so is it really worth the effort when you have key fixtures against Crystal Palace, Southampton, Brighton, and Fulham left in the league?
Newcastle have picked up 35 points, and a couple of wins against the teams around them should help them retain their top-flight status, so perhaps criticising the team so vehemently, even more so after an international break, is a bit too harsh considering where there are in the table.