I’m not going to address the transfer deadline here, we know the score with that – I just want to talk about football as long as Rafa is our manager.
The last time we played, which seems like an eternity ago during another dour international break, we were excellent. So excellent that the returning Jonjo Shelvey isn’t guaranteed a place in the team. Seriously though, we were so so good. Today’s opposition are no better on paper than West Ham. For that reason, if we apply ourselves as we have done in each of our opening fixtures and avoid red cards and other gags, we will get something here.
Our back four has been tough to break down in our opening fixtures (with 11 men) and this in spite of the fact that we have now had injuries to four of our first team defenders and we are only 3 games in. I expect nothing less than another solid performance from the lads that line up at the Liberty Stadium. The Mbemba injury is a nightmare though. If Lejeune is fit then it’s likely he will start with Clark moved out to left back but I wouldn’t be happy to see Lejeune forced straight back in for a full 90. Yedlin may also be fit, which would probably mean Manquillo to left back. It’s not ideal but whatever happens I’m still happy with any of these lads to do the job.
Swansea beat Palace away a fortnight ago by packing out the midfield (Clucas, Carroll and Fer). Merino and Hayden were excellent last week so I’d be tempted to keep both on the teamsheet as well as the returning Shelvey and try and overpower the Swansea lot. I think Merino could do a lot of what we have needed from Colback in the last few seasons and give either Hayden or Shelvey (or both!) a bit more space and time to do their work. The sacrifice here would of course be Perez which is a tough call.
In the opening two games he was awful and looked like he’d made no progress from the performances of 2 years ago. Against West Ham, he was a different player and this was entirely down to the relationship he had with the lad behind him (Merino) and the lad in front of him (Joselu). Perez was the perfect link up player in that line up and the partnership with Joselu was dreamy. Every time he got the ball we looked a threat and he was in space. The difference to when he plays in a side with Mitro or even Gayle was incredible/ If those two start together again, I will fully understand.
It’s hard to look past Ritchie and Atsu to make up the eleven on the wings. Both were at the top of their games at West Ham and to be honest I just want to see more of the same from everybody that played.
Swansea City has not been an enjoyable away game for NUFC in recent history. For a start, it’s a bastard to get to as an away fan. We’ve only gained 1 point from our last 4 visits in the league, courtesy of some Papiss Cissé magic in 2014. Gary Monk described that 2-2 draw as the easiest game he’d had in management… I’m sure taking Middlesbrough to Burton will be just as fun mate.
I have no real opinion of Paul Clement but what I’d really love on Sunday is for Joselu to bang in the goals whilst we dominate the fuck out of Tammy Bastard Abraham for choosing to play in the arse end of Wales instead of at SJP for Rafa Benitez. He can fuck off.
Alas, like I said before the West Ham game: if we play this weekend like we did against Spurs, we will come away with a result. A win would be great, a draw would be enough to take the pressure off and allow us something to build on.
This is the best league in the world, and we still have one of the best managers in the world. We are going to lose games, but we will win plenty too if we stay united. A couple of wins could be massive for Rafa in keeping him committed to the reason he came to us. We were excellent away from home last season after a wobbly start. We can be excellent again at this level with his guidance.
2-0 to Rafa’s Mags